Much more must be done to ensure that family farmers, especially those in developing countries, have access to agricultural biotechnologies that can make their activities more productive and sustainable in the face of major challenges such as climate change and population growth, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in Rome.
Opening the FAO-hosted international symposium ‘The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition’, Graziano da Silva stressed the need for ‘a broad portfolio of tools and approaches to eradicate hunger, fight every form of malnutrition and achieve sustainable agriculture.’
"As a neutral forum, FAO has been promoting debates, dialogues and exchanges of information in order to enhance our knowledge of these tools and approaches," the FAO Director-General added.
The symposium focuses mainly on the broad range of biotechnologies that could result in yield increases, better nutritional qualities, and improved productivities of crops, livestock, fish and trees benefiting family farmers and their food systems, nutrition and livelihoods.
These include many ‘low tech’ applications, for example fermentation processes, bio-fertilisers, artificial insemination, the production of vaccines, disease diagnostics, the development of bio-pesticides and the use of molecular markers in developing new varieties and breeds.
"We cannot lose sight that biotechnologies, knowledge and innovation must be available, accessible and applicable to family farmers including small holders," Graziano da Silva told symposium participants. "We must find the means to remove the barriers that prevent their availability to family farmers," he added.
"Let me state this loud and clear, this symposium is not about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Agricultural biotechnologies are much broader than GMOs," the FAO Director underscored.
About 500 scientists, representatives of governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, farmers’ associations and cooperatives are participating in the three day event.
Ahead of the symposium, FAO issued a worldwide public call of interest to ensure the broadest possible range of participants. All non-state actors were given equal space, and they responded according to their interests.