UK launches new science center to address food insecurity

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The UK will launch a new science center where experts will develop climate resilient crops and identify risks to the global food system, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will announce today (Monday 20 November).

The new initiative will be unveiled at the Global Food Security Summit in London, which the UK is hosting alongside Somalia, the UAE, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In her opening speech, the Prime Minister will call on the international community to act now to address the root causes of food insecurity, build more resilient food systems and prevent food crises and malnutrition.

The new virtual science hub will be led by CGIAR, a global research partnership that brings together international organizations working on food security to make the global food system more resilient to future shocks to a changing climate. It will link UK scientists to research initiatives that will develop crops that can withstand the effects of climate change and are more disease resistant.

The UK’s new international development white paper on food insecurity is also expected to be announced at the conference on Monday.

The White Paper is set to address food insecurity as a key global challenge, setting out how the UK will go beyond aid payments and instead work in partnership with countries to tackle extreme poverty and climate change.

Climate change, conflict, the long-term effects of Covid-19 and the impact of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine on the global food supply are the main drivers of current food insecurity.

The UK has played a leading role in ensuring that Ukraine can continue to export its agricultural products despite Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) and ignoring its impact on the world’s most vulnerable region. Ukrainian grain exports are crucial to ensuring global food security.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

We must take action to address the underlying, and often invisible, causes of global food insecurity.

From the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine to the impact of major natural disasters on food production, I am proud that the UK, alongside our partners, is leading the way in finding solutions to some of the biggest global challenges of our time.

The White Paper’s priorities include international finance, reforming the international system, harnessing innovation and putting women and girls at center stage, ensuring opportunities for all.

International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell said:

Many children go to bed hungry and malnourished. At this summit, the UK and its partners will be united in our determination to change this. Cutting-edge science and innovative partnerships will help Britain create a healthier, safer and more prosperous world for us all.

Today we will launch the UK International Development White Paper, setting out our long-term vision for tackling complex global challenges, including preventing and treating child wasting, through new partnerships and funding sources. The Global Food Summit is a tangible example of how we are already working to make that vision happen.”

Flood-tolerant rice, disease-resistant wheat, biofortified and vitamin-enriched sweet potatoes are some of the improved crops the UK has helped to develop through CGIAR’s improved crop breeding so far.

Together with partners, the UK is tackling growing food security and malnutrition situations around the world, including across Africa.

Up to £100 million in humanitarian funding is being released to countries most affected by food insecurity, including Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Afghanistan, and to countries affected by climate-related cyclones and droughts, such as Malawi.

The UK is also helping to avert future food and nutrition crises in Somalia by building resilience to climate disasters and strengthening health services.

Malnutrition is the underlying cause of 45% of child deaths worldwide.

The Prime Minister will announce at the summit that the UK is giving more support to the Child Nutrition Fund. The funding means it can increase its support for breastfeeding, infant feeding and health care, and improve monitoring of how best to manage and prevent the worst forms of child malnutrition.

UK support will be matched pound for pound as the worst-hit countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia and Senegal, invest their own resources to tackle the problem. This will help ensure a more reliable supply of vital food to young children suffering from the worst forms of malnutrition.

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