Speech By Ms Grace Fu, Minister For Sustainability and the Environment, At The Global Food Security & Sustainability Virtual Summit 2021 on 17 September 2021
1 A very good morning. It is my pleasure to join you at the Global Food Security & Sustainability Virtual Summit 2021. This Summit is a useful platform to bring together the public and private sector, as well as academia, to discuss ideas and solutions to secure a sustainable food system for Asia.
Enhancing Singapore’s Food Security
2 Food security came into greater focus last year with the emergence of COVID-19. Global food supply chains were disrupted, impacting the supply resilience of many countries, causing massive crop wastage in others. Singapore too felt the effects despite our efforts to diversify our food import sources over the years.
3 Global food supply will continue to face fluctuations and risks, from challenges ranging from disease outbreaks, rising urbanisation, and climate change. New solutions are needed for more sustainable food. With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report declaring a code red for humanity, the need for sustainable food production has never been more urgent.
4 In Singapore, we have set for ourselves a 30-by-30 target. By 2030, we aim to have the capacity to produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs, locally and sustainably. This is an ambitious target given that we are producing less than 10 per cent today. To achieve this, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) is working with the industry to raise production in a resource optimal, and environmentally and commercially sustainable way. This will be a transformation, with innovation and technology as critical enablers.
5 To support the transformation, the Singapore Government has set aside a $60 million Agri-Food Cluster Transformation (ACT) Fund over the next five years to support local farms to adopt technology and improve their farming systems. The response has been encouraging. We have received 36 applications since the Fund was launched in April.
6 R&D holds the key to the future of food, as we tackle challenges like climate change and dwindling resources. SFA has awarded over $23 million in funding to 12 projects under the Singapore Food Story R&D Programme grant call. These grants will address challenges facing tropical aquaculture and urban agriculture to further develop our capability to sustainably grow more with less.
Importance of Food Safety
7 Even as we turn to technology and innovation to strengthen our food security, it is paramount to ensure that the food we eat is safe. Food safety and security are two sides of a coin.
8 Novel foods, such as cultured or cell-based meat, is a case in point. They are novel, and do not have a history of use. When they emerge as a growth area, SFA began engaging the scientific community and industry on the approach to regulate and ensure safety of such food type. In 2019, we introduced a novel food regulatory framework, which requires novel food products to be put through pre-market safety assessment before they are allowed for sale in Singapore. SFA also established a Novel Food Safety Expert Working Group comprising experts in relevant fields, including food toxicology, bioinformatics, nutrition, epidemiology, public health policy and food science and technology, to provide scientific advice.
9 Last December, Singapore became the first in the world to allow cultured chicken to be sold as a food product, after it had gone through our rigorous safety assessment framework.
Working with Stakeholders to Enhance Food Safety
10 In April, we embarked on another chapter of our food safety journey with the launch of FRESH – the Future Ready Food Safety Hub. FRESH is a partnership between the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (or A*STAR), SFA and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). By enhancing our R&D capabilities, this partnership seeks to support new product development, particularly novel food, by plugging the gaps in scientific capabilities for food safety risk assessment and validation. FRESH brings together regulators, public researchers and industry to build capabilities and develop competencies across multiple disciplines to take food safety to the next lap. This multi-disciplinary approach will enable FRESH to address the challenges to food safety holistically, and prepare for future challenges in the risk assessment of novel foods.
11 FRESH will support the food innovation ecosystem by enabling the launch of safe, “first-in-market” food products in Singapore. To this end, the industry can tap on FRESH for R&D and preparation for regulatory assessments of novel foods. FRESH will give us useful perspectives on food safety and confidence as we strengthen food security through technology and innovation.
12 At the regional level, Singapore is working closely with our neighbours to enhance food safety cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as novel foods and alternative proteins. We are also looking to collaborate on R&D in areas such as sustainable aquaculture. This Summit presents a good opportunity for countries to exchange ideas and explore collaboration to help promote food safety practices and sustainable farming in the region and beyond.
13 Let me conclude. This year’s Global Food Security & Sustainability Virtual Summit is timely. We should reflect upon lessons offered by COVID-19 and recent extreme weather events as we jointly envisage the future of food production. To realise the vision of sustainable food supply to address developmental goals of alleviating poverty and hunger, regulators, businesses and scientists must work collaboratively. I hope this Summit will catalyse many projects and initiatives to effectively address the critical issue of food security in Singapore, regionally and internationally. I wish you all a fruitful discussion.