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Crop Biotech Update

Food Security Expert Says COVID-19 Pandemic Calls for Reassessment of Food Systems

May 6, 2020

Science Media Centre Malaysia (SMC), in collaboration with ISAAA, The Petri Dish, and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) hosted a webinar on the Impact of COVID-19 on Food Systems. The webinar had four panelists, ISAAA Global Coordinator Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan; Professor Dr. Paul S. Teng, Adjunct Senior Fellow (Food Security) at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore; Associate Professor Dr. Shaufique Fahmi Ahmad Sidique, Director of the Institute of Agriculture and Food Policy Studies UPM; and the Design Director of Eats Shoots and Roots, Shao-Lyn Low. The four panelists are experts on food security, biotechnology, and urban farming.

The panelists analyzed the key issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and the food systems in the region. They discussed various issues from the impact of pandemic-affected food systems, food security, and farmers' livelihood, effects of food insecurity on the economy, and the "new norms" during and post-crisis including addressing the role of technology and innovation.

Dr. Teng stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to reassess our current food systems. "Early in the pandemic, agriculture was not seen as an essential service. As things dragged on, we started to realize that if you stop people from being involved in agriculture, you will experience a disruption in the food supply. This led countries like India and China to relook their agricultural sector."

Dr. Arujanan, who is co-founder of SMC Malaysia, said that Asia has 80 percent of the world's smallholder farmers amounting to 100 million in the ASEAN region, thus scientists, policymakers, and governments must educate the public about food production and its importance.

Low suggested that farming should be included as part of education curriculum so that every child has a basic knowledge of how food grows, as it serves as a good survival skill. Dr. Sidique opined that food security should be addressed from a multi-dimensional aspect. He said it is not just about your ability to produce as a country but also to make sure the affordability, accessibility, sustainability, availability and nutritional values of the food produced are looked into carefully.

For more information, visit Science Media Centre Malaysia.

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