Filipino rice scientist appointed UN Food Systems Champion

DR. Glenn Gregorio, a plant breeder researcher and Director of the Philippines-hosted Los Baños-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), has been appointed as one of the new Champions of the United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit 2021.

Expected to be held in September this year, the UN Food Systems Summit aims to raise awareness on the centrality of food system to the entire sustainable development agenda and draw attention to the urgency of transforming food systems, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the UN, “the Champions Network mobilizes a diverse range of people in every region of the world to call for fundamental transformation of the world’s food systems. Champions are leaders of institutions and networks advancing food systems transformation and thought leadership.”

Having bred rice varieties for tolerance to saline-prone and problem soils at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for 29 years prior to joining SEARCA in 2019, Dr. Gregorio brings with him his experience and leadership in the transformation of food systems both in the education and research contexts within Southeast Asia, as well as ensures that SEARCA’s efforts align with those of other global, regional, and national organizations toward contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Dr. Gregorio said being a Food Systems Champion “aligns well with SEARCA’s mandate and its focus on accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation (ATTAIN) while pursuing the SDGs by strengthening academe-industry-government interconnectivity.”

Currently, SEARCA is working on reinforcing transformative change in agricultural food systems through various initiatives with its partners. Such efforts include developing a digital agriculture platform to provide farmers with real-time farm management technical support and access to modern markets. Together with the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), SEARCA is also developing the ASEAN Guidelines that will outline conditions and actions needed for the inclusive and sustainable use of digital technologies for agriculture and food system improvements.

Dr. Gregorio said becoming a Food Systems Champion will “give us more opportunity to work with like-minded organizations and individuals towards the same goal of achieving the SDGs and food security.”

The landmark meeting seeks to help stakeholders achieve the SDGs “in 10 years through a food systems approach, leveraging the interconnectedness of food systems to global challenges such as hunger, climate change, poverty, and inequality.”

As part of the Champions Network, Dr. Gregorio commits to contribute to substantive discussions, generate ideas, and take action to strengthen food systems, and share information to ensure anyone with an interest in food systems at all levels can engage with the Summit.

Dr. Gregorio is also a Professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Agriculture and Food Science and Academician at the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), Philippines. Moreover, he is President of the Society for the Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia and Oceania (SABRAO) until 2023 and the Chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Technical Panel for Agriculture until 2024.