FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratories

50TH ANNIVERSARY: 1964-2014 & Beyond - Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture Situated 35 km from its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, the FAO/IAEA Laboratories specialize in applied research, within the Joint FAO/IAEA programme that includes developing, adapting and transferring appropriate isotope and radiation technologies of importance to agriculture - technologies designed to meet specific local needs and environmental conditions.

The Laboratories also provide technical training for scientists from Member States, including guidance in the application of the technology, the under-pinning science, handson use and practical aspects, such as maintenance of laboratory equipment, which, in turn, ensures best practice, safety and quality control. They also supply specialised services in nuclear technologies to its Member States.

The FAO/IAEA Laboratories spearhead the use of "atoms for peace", with emphasis on research for development, and apply their expertise at the forefront of worldwide efforts to fight global hunger and malnutrition, improve environmental sustainability, protect plants and livestock, improve farmers' income and ensure safe food for consumers. The socio-economic impacts derived from the application of these technologies are frequently measured in millions or billions of US dollars annually.

The mandate of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division, and hence of the Laboratories, is to assist Member States in the safe and appropriate use of nuclear techniques and related technologies in food and agriculture. Applying cutting-edge isotope and radiation technologies developed by the Joint FAO/IAEA Programme adds value to global agricultural research in the areas of animal production and health, food and environmental protection, insect pest control, plant breeding and genetics, and soil and water management and crop nutrition.

The mission of the FAO/IAEA Laboratories is focused on:

Applied research and development The R&D activities undertaken at the FAO/IAEA Laboratories are linked to coordinated research projects (CRPs) and technical cooperation projects (TCPs). These are the Joint Division's two main delivery mechanisms for developing and transferring nuclear and nuclear-related technologies to Member States. These activities play a central role in most CRPs and provide technical backup to TCPs. The Laboratories provide crucial input and innovative solutions to national and global agricultural development challenges; provide vital scientific evidence to support the solutions; and, support decision- and policymaking as well as international standards.

Training and capacity building These activities are essential components of technology transfer. While almost 90% of the Laboratories' training activities are conducted in Member States, numerous training courses, workshops, seminars and individual fellowships are also held each year at the Laboratories to validate or harmonize procedures. These involve several hundred trainees annually, with the overall goal of building sustainable capacity in each Member State. While the main focus is nuclear and nuclear-related technologies, emphasis is also placed on understanding the wider aspects of the problems to be studied and solved. This ensures that the trainees return to their home country properly equipped with the knowledge needed and extensive scientific and technical networks ready to assist them whenever required.

Training activities at the FAO/IAEA Laboratories are generally linked to TCPs and are commonly funded through the Technical Cooperation Fund. They may also be funded by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division itself through extra-budgetary funds or by a Member State. Training activities are related to specific topics and requests and may take the form of i) training courses with 20-25 participants each and lasting generally from 1-6 weeks, ii) workshops with around 10 participants and lasting for 1-2 weeks or iii) individual fellowships or internships that may last from three months to a year or more. Trainees are proposed by the individual Member States and assessed for appropriate experience and suitability by the IAEA prior to being accepted for participation in such training activities. The Laboratories also host numerous scientific visitors and graduate students each year.

Technical and analytical services The FAO/IAEA Laboratories provide technical and analytical services to Member States. These services include, amongst others, radiosensitivity testing to determine optimal dose rates of gammaor X-ray irradiation; mutation induction treatment with gammaand X-rays; proficiency testing; and evaluation, method development, validation, standardization and selection of appropriate equipment and processes for specific uses. Laboratory staff also share with trainees and partners their extensive experience in niche and routine operations and processes, as well as in the maintenance and repair of equipment.

For further information for on-going laboratory activities please see:

Publications

- Laboratories Activities Report 2012 [pdf]
- Laboratories Activities Report 2011 [pdf]
- Laboratories Activities Report 2010 [pdf]