ROME, Italy, October 15, 2004 (ENS):
Biological diversity is one of the keys to ending world
hunger, Dr. Jacques Diouf, director-general of the United
Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said
today. "But we are also raising an alarm,"
he warned. "FAO estimates that about three-quarters
of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been
lost over the last century. Just 12 crops and 14 animal
species now provide most of the world's food."
Dr. Diouf was speaking at a ceremony marking World
Food Day 2004, which falls on the anniversary of the
foundation of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
on October 16, 1945 and is observed in Rome and in some
150 countries around the world. This year's World Food
Day theme is Biodiversity for Food Security.
"Our planet abounds with life and it is this great
diversity that holds one of the keys to ending hunger,"
Dr. Diouf told officials and representatives from FAO
member states, international organizations, other UN
agencies, nongovernmental organizations, civil society
and farmers' groups.
He emphasized the need to maintain biodiversity in
nature and on farms to ensure to all people a sustainable
access to enough diversified and nutritious food.
In his keynote speech, World Food Day 2004 special
guest President Ferenc Màdl of Hungary said,
"The international community should spare no effort
to implement the Millenium Development Goals for the
benefit of all."
Màdl called on all countries to "create
conditions to facilitate access to genetic resources
for environmentally sound uses."
Hungary is among the countries that welcomed and ratified
the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources
for Food and Agriculture, and Màdl encouraged
the world's growers to consider it as "a leading
place in Central Europe to breed traditional and new
The FAO treaty, which entered into force this year,
guarantees that farmers and breeders have access to
genetic materials they need and it also ensures that
farmers receive a fair and equitable share of the benefits
derived from their work.
Rather than a single crop variety that guarantees a
high yield, farmers in developing countries are more
likely to need an assortment of crops that grow well
in harsh climates or animals with resistance to disease,
the FAO says. For the poorest farmers, the diversity
of life may be their best protection against starvation.
Consumers also benefit from diversity through a wide
choice of plants and animals. This contributes to a
nutritious diet, particularly important for rural communities
with limited access to markets.
At today's ceremony a message on the importance of biodiversity
from Pope John Paul II was read by Monsignor Renato
Volante, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO.
The Pope stated that the World Food Day observances
contribute to liberate humanity from the scourge of
hunger and malnutrition.
More than 40 percent of the land's surface is used
for agriculture, placing a large responsibility on farmers
to protect biodiversity. By using appropriate techniques
like no-tillage agriculture, reduced use of pesticide,
organic agriculture and crop rotation, farmers maintain
the fragile balance with the surrounding ecosystems.
For the first time on World Food Day at FAO headquarters,
farmers from different parts of the world had a chance
to speak about their experience in enhancing biodiversity
and increasing food production in a sustainable way.
Elsewhere, World Food Day is being celebrated to raise
awareness of the fact that more than 840 million people
remain hungry around the world and still more suffer
from micronutrient deficiencies. In the United States,
sponsored by the U.S. National Committee for World Food
Day, hundreds of WFD teleconference sites were set up
at colleges and at U.S. Embassies across the world.
Some colleges organized a week-long observance.
In Sweden, substantive seminars for parliamentarians,
the media and the scientific community were organized.
A conference on the importance of biodiversity took
place in Stockholm and a scientific seminar on biological
diversity was organized today at the University of Agriculture,
In India, essay competitions were organized in schools
in Delhi. In several European and Middle Eastern capitals,
schoolchildren competed in drawing contests on biodiversity
and food security.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All