The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, established by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) and The Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation, Inc., has finalised agreement to work with the Health Ministry of Malaysia. Malaysia is the first national government to agree to such partnership with the institute, in effort to combat the increasing trend of non-communicable diseases such as obesity and diabetes among Malaysians. The institute will also provide input regarding the handling of issues on undernutrition and overnutrition among Malaysians.
Dr. Mandana Arabi, director of The Sackler Institute for Nutrition stated that the nutritional challenges face by Malaysia are similar to that faced by countries such as Mexico, India and China. All of them are undergoing the same ‘nutritional transition’. He emphasised the need for more research in order to figure out how to formulate a programme with optimal impact to tackle such challenges. He also highlighted that one of the aims of the collaboration with Malaysia is to come up with a detailed plan on how to address these problems effectively.
Meanwhile, Emeritus Professor Datuk Seri Dr. Zakri Abdul Hamid, who is the science advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia said that research and development on strategic crops such as rice must now be prioritised. The latest techniques from modern biotechnology must be used as an effort to manage food security issues.
Based on date from the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Malaysia is self-sufficient in fish, eggs, pork and poultry but is increasingly dependent on other nations for other staples such as milk, mutton, beef, vegetables, fruits and rice. Malaysia’s dependence on other nations for these staples will make the nation vulnerable to price shocks, such as the 75% increase in rice price and 130% increase in wheat price experienced during the global food crisis of 2008.
Malaysia’s partnership with the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science is an example of multitudes of international scientific research collaborations geared towards improving the nutritional conditions of a nation. As the global population increases, the amount of food required to sustain such large population also increases. It is imperative for the nations of the world to participate in global research collaboration to address urgent issues regarding food such as food supply shortages and the increasing food demand from a growing world population.