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
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 plant varieties."
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 Uppsala.
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 Rights Reserved.