UN partners expand use of nuclear technology to combat disease

February 25, 2021, 12:23PMNuclear News

The IAEA headquarters.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have worked together to address the global challenges of food insecurity, climate change, animal/zoonotic diseases, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic over 57 years of partnership. On February 23, the directors general of both organizations signed a Revised Arrangement committing to upgrade their collaboration and increase the scope of their work.

Background: The Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture (formerly known as the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture) represents a distinct research and development structure within the UN system, according to the IAEA. The Centre encompasses the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratories and operates in the context of UN Sustainable Development Goals.

What has changed? The Revised Arrangement expands areas of common research interest and increases management efficiency, according to the IAEA. Plans include improving the monitoring and control of transboundary animal, zoonotic, and plant diseases by integrating the IAEA laboratories’ research and development capacities with FAO’s One Health initiative.

FAO’s One Health takes “an integrated approach that recognizes the interconnected relationship between animals, people, plants, and the environment, which will contribute to ZODIAC (Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action),” according to the IAEA. ZODIAC is an IAEA initiative launched in June 2020 to strengthen the preparedness and capabilities of member states to rapidly detect and respond to zoonotic disease outbreaks.

According to the IAEA, “The Joint Centre’s laboratories provide an added value for all partners, while ZODIAC will help fill knowledge gaps.” The Centre will continue to support COVID-19 emergency assistance and will provide veterinary and public health officials with expert guidance as well as technical, scientific, and laboratory support.

Quotable: “We begin a new era of collaboration between FAO and the IAEA, which will strengthen our strategic partnership for the benefit of the millions of people whom we serve together,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the IAEA.

“The Joint FAO/IAEA Centre will continue to reflect the long-standing strategic partnership between FAO and IAEA in sustainable agriculture development and food security using nuclear science and technology,” said Qu Dongyu, director general of FAO.

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