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AASSA Report
admin 2018.03.19

Opportunities and challenges for research on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Asia

Report for audiences of the Asia-Pacific regions as a contribution to a worldwide project initiated by IAP, the InterAcademy Partnership, the global network of science academies.

National academies of science have a long tradition of engaging widely to strengthen the evidence base to underpin the delivery of enhanced food and nutrition security at regional and national levels. AASSA, the Association of Academies and Societies of Sciences in Asia, has produced this report for audiences of the Asia -Pacific regions as a contribution to a project worldwide initiated by IAP, the InterAcademy Partnership, the global network of science academies. The IAP work brings together regional perspectives in parallel from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe on the opportunities for the science-policy interface, identifying how research can contribute to resolving challenges for agriculture, food systems and nutrition.


Our AASSA report combines analysis of the current status in the Asia-Pacific regions with exploration of a strategy moving forward in FNSA. Malnutrition in all its forms creates a major public health problem in the Asia- Pacific regions but people in the regions are not immune from other concerns about food and nutrition security and must also recognize the impact of their activities on the rest of the world. We define the goal of food and nutrition security as providing access for all to a healthy and affordable diet that is environmentally sustainable. We recognize the necessity to take account of diversity: in food systems and dietary intakes within and between countries, and in the variability of nutrient requirements in vulnerable groups within populations and across the individual's lifecycle.

This report is a part of a global project led by the InterAcademy Partnership and joined by three complementary reports focusing on Europe, the Americas, and Africa. This global project has been supported by 130 science academies around the globe in an unprecedented effort to bring together the latest knowledge on the future of food, health, and the environment. The global comparative report will be published in mid-2018. The IAP project is distinctive and adds value to the large body of work already undertaken by many other groups.


This project was formulated so as to stimulate the four regional networks in diverse analysis and synthesis according to their own experiences, traditions and established policy priorities, while, at the same time, conforming to shared academy standards for clear linkage to the evidences available. The project as a whole and in its regional parts was also underpinned by necessary quality assessment and control, particularly through peer review procedures. The networks of science academies involved in the project are grateful for the financial support provided by German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).


Top line findings by the panel of scientists include:

Future FNS should take into account not only the production of more food calories and nutrients, but also the production of a wider diversity of food types:

  • New scalable insect and algal species for use in the food industry and alternative animal feeding systems should be identified.   

  • Developing new feedstuffs (lower down the food value chain) for simple-stomached animals (e.g. pigs, poultry and fish), and into the underlying mechanisms of productive efficiency, is urgently needed

  • Further adoption of aquaculture technologies through research into intensified growth conditions and the identification of new species should be promoted.


A strategy moving forward would be to undertake systems analysis to identify key impediments to raising food yields or supplying an adequate balance of food types:


  • Priority in relation to R&D and educational efforts should be given to countries and regions that have been identified as at ‘high risk’ concerning current and future FNS.

  • Consideration should be given to the effects of different age distributions in future populations

  • Common impediments to increasing FNS at national, regional and local levels should be identified and evaluated, along with generic over-arching technologies


The AASSA should work with its constituent societies to develop a trans-national funding mechanism that puts basic research connected to FNS at the forefront:

  • There should be research effort to understand the holistic nutritional and health properties of individual foods and mixed diets

  • The food S&T, nutrition and plant/animal breeding disciplines should work together to develop functional foods containing high natural levels (or following fortification) of health-enhancing bioactives as well as minerals and vitamins.

  • Efforts to collect, phenotype, catalogue and preserve diverse wild relatives and landraces of cultivated crops should be extended. 

  • Inter-disciplinary research among engineers, geographic scientists, biologists and data scientists to develop better-integrated sensing and reporting systems and to promote precision agriculture and robotics should be encouraged.


The rapid change in the world’s climate introduces considerable uncertainty and risk for future world food production:

  • The implications of the use of land for non-food crop production (including for clothing and biofuels), urbanization and industrial expansion for FNS and the preservation of biodiversity need to be better understood.

  • Water and soil use management (and the contamination of water, soil and food with fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides) needs to be an integral part of any strategy to increase food production.

    About AASSA


    AASSA is formed by 34 member academies and societies of sciences from 30 countries in the Asia- Oceania regions. AASSA serves as a forum to discuss and provide advice on issues related to science and technology, research and development, and the application of technology for socio-economic development of member countries. Through AASSA, the academies and societies work together to share common challenges and to develop strategies tackling for the problems the member countries encounter.


    Contact information


    Professor Krishan Lal

    Co-Chair, IAP for Science, the Global Network of Science Academies

    Tel: +91 11 2322 1958



    Professor Paul J Moughan

    Distinguished Professor and Co-Director, Massey University

    Tel: +64 6 951 7299



    AASSA Secretariat

    Tel: +82 31 710 4645


AASSA, The Association of Academies and Societies of Sciences in Asia
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