Malaysia gets help to deal with food security issues

KUALA LUMPUR - The best minds in the world will partner Malaysia in its bid to solve problems in areas such as health nutrition and food security, as part of their work in the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC), Datuk Seri Najib Razak said.

The prime minister said through the GSIAC, the government would be working closely with organisations such as the Sackler Institute, which had helped the country tackle among others, the problem of over- and under-nutrition.

In his opening speech at the GSIAC inter-sessional meeting at the parliament building yesterday, Najib said the key to sustaining food security was to boost food production through innovation, better technology, improved irrigation and quality of manpower.

He said food security had increasingly become a critical issue in Malaysia and the Asean nations, as the region grappled with challenges such as climate change, increasing populations and a finite amount of arable land.

As one of the world's agricultural basins, he said, a food shortage in Asia had become a real threat and was compounded by natural disasters, soil quality deterioration and global warming.

"The issue of food security is intertwined with other issues such as energy, environmental and water conservation."

Najib said sustainability of food security and the health among Malaysians were top priorities to ensure there is a productive population needed to achieve national targets set for the year 2020.

Malaysia, he said, had also addressed the social determinants of health through the Economic Transformation Programme and the National Blue Ocean Strategies under the existing systems to increase the quality of the environment for the people.

"We have noticed a fast-increasing rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. It's an alarming trend."

The prime minister said GSIAC members also gave advice on projects such as Iskandar Malaysia, the Malaysian BioMass Initiative and Cradle-to-Career initiatives, by sharing some of the cutting-edge and practical solutions developed in other parts of the world.

"We need great ideas, brilliant ideas. These thinkers that we have assembled are willing and fully committed to partnering with Malaysia and helping us through a forum that can lead to the successful implementation of these ideas.

"This can be seen in the results we have achieved in the past two and a half years."

The meeting, organised by the Malaysian Industry Government Group for High Technology (Might) and the New York Academy of Sciences, was attended by experts, including Royal Society vice-president and honorary treasurer Sir Peter William, former science adviser to the Prime Minister of Japan Dr Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Singularity University Artificial Intelligence faculty head and Robotics co-chair Dr Dan Barry and Dr Sonia Ortega of the National Science Foundation.

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