FAO-IAEA meeting held focusing on prevention of animal disease outbreaks

“The IAEA’s mandate to promote nuclear technologies and their peaceful applications is especially important in health, food and agriculture,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in his opening remarks.


IAEA | Updated: 29-06-2021 10:19 IST | Created: 29-06-2021 10:19 IST
FAO-IAEA meeting held focusing on prevention of animal disease outbreaks
“The world is looking to us to produce synergies and provide leadership for a One Health approach that prevents future pandemics originating from animal sources,” FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said. Image Credit: Pixabay

A symposium organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) opened today focusing on the prevention of animal disease outbreaks that can cause human pandemics like COVID-19, as well as ways to boost sustainable animal production to feed growing populations.

The week-long International Symposium on Sustainable Animal Production and Health virtually brings together over 2000 experts in veterinary medicine, genetics and biochemistry, among other scientific fields, to discuss topics such as emergency preparedness and response to outbreaks, advances in animal disease vaccine development and the latest tools to improve livestock production, breeding and feed.

"The IAEA's mandate to promote nuclear technologies and their peaceful applications is especially important in health, food and agriculture," IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in his opening remarks.

"Sustainable animal production and animal health systems are essential to attain the Four Betters – better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind," said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu. "Protecting animal health under the One Health framework is at the core of our work. This Symposium is an excellent platform to discuss progress, but more importantly, to envisage the future," he added.

The IAEA Animal Production and Health Laboratory plays a critical role in implementing the programmes of the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture and has supported vital research and development work to help countries tackle animal and zoonotic diseases such as Avian flu, African swine fever, Zika and Ebola in the past decade. More recently, it has been at the centre of the IAEA's assistance to 130 Member States in their efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Building on this experience, last year the IAEA launched the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative to support countries in the use of nuclear and nuclear-derived techniques for the timely detection and control of pathogens at the animal-human interface. "The IAEA is staying present and offering this platform with a nuclear-specific component," Director General Grossi said while recalling past Agency assistance to the international community in battles against significant outbreaks. The IAEA, together with FAO and the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), will continue to tackle zoonoses, he said.

"The world is looking to us to produce synergies and provide leadership for a One Health approach that prevents future pandemics originating from animal sources," FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said.

With livestock production systems becoming more intensified in many parts of the world to meet demands for animal-based foods, the symposium will address the challenges and potential strategies for controlling emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, especially with the One Health approach. One Health recognizes the interconnectedness of the health of people, animals and the environment, and this multidisciplinary approach is essential to achieve optimal planetary health and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The ten-year anniversary of the eradication of rinderpest disease

The Symposium marks ten years since the successful eradication of rinderpest – the second viral disease to have been defeated globally after smallpox was eliminated in 1980. For centuries, cattle and wild animal pest seriously threatened food security, especially in Africa and Asia. Its eradication was declared in 2011 by the OIE, following an international effort that benefited from FAO and IAEA support to develop tools to quickly detect and efficiently monitor rinderpest cases in the field.

"The eradication of rinderpest is a perfect example of the effectiveness of well-built partnerships," OIE Director General Monique Eloit said in her opening remarks. Surveillance, she added, is an essential component of disease prevention along with vaccines, and the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre plays a key role in this regard, supporting the overarching goals of the OIE and FAO.

Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture

First established in 1964, the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre operates five laboratories that help countries in the use of nuclear and isotopic techniques to improve global food security and sustainable agriculture worldwide. Located at the IAEA Seibersdorf facility, 35 km south of the Austrian capital Vienna, these laboratories carry out research and development and provide guidance and training to scientists from around the world.

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