Teagasc plays a key role in international food security

Teagasc recently made a submission to the International Food Security Committee to the review of Ireland’s Foreign Policy and External Relations.

“It’s submission had two key angles” noted Prof Cathal O’Donoghue head of Teagasc Rural Economy and Development Programme.

Firstly it outlined the importance of food that encompasses a range of dimensions. “Food touches everything,” he said.

Speaking to AgriLand, Prof O’Donoghue noted: “Food is a basic need, forming the largest budget share of most households in the world. Food production is one of the global grand challenges; given population growth, climate and other environmental challenges, provision of sufficient food and nutrition and is core to national objectives in relation to food security and the fight against hunger.

He added; “Food shortages, as a result of recent food price spikes, resulting from weather and trade related food supply shocks have been a source of global instability; regarded as one of the sources of tension in the Arab world in recent years.”

“Food is one of the world’s largest traded commodities at 9.2 per cent of global merchandise exports in 2012.”

The second dimension of the Teagasc submission reflected on the specific role it has around food security and development.

He said: “Sustainable food production has re-emerged at the top of the global policy agenda, driven by two of the contemporary challenges. Firstly the challenge to produce enough food to feed a growing world population. And secondly, the challenge to make more efficient and more sustainable use of the world’s natural resources, especially in relation to water availability and quality, air quality and climate change, soil protection and nutrients and the natural heritage in the form of biodiversity.”

Prof O’Donoghue outlined while Teagasc’s mission primarily focuses on the development of Ireland’s indigenous food industry, it also recognises the role it can play in facilitating national objectives on food security.

Prof O’Donoghue said Teagasc’s submission did highlight that following this realignment of Government priorities, it is recognised that there is an urgent need to further strengthen these programmes with agricultural and environmental expertise in order to deliver on the first two priority areas, improving smallholder agriculture and preventing maternal and child undernutrition.”

Prof O’Donoghue highlighted that Teagasc is in a good position to contribute solutions to the problem of food security internationally. He said: “It is natural that we would want to help to reduce hunger throughout the world.

“Around the world research, advice and education are all in different places. Teagasc bring all those together and are able to bring research form the lab to the field quickly.”