Head of UN food agency deplores 'tragedy of hunger in a world of abundance'

Head of UN food agency deplores 'tragedy of hunger in a world of abundance'

The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has denounced the "tragedy of hunger" in a world of abundance and waste, calling it "a troubling reality."

The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has deplored the "tragedy of hunger" in a world of abundance and waste, calling it "a troubling reality."

In an address on Saturday to the agency's biennial Conference, Director-General Jacques Diouf said that to effectively fight hunger and poverty, the battle would have to be waged on two fronts. In the case of emergencies, immediate targeted food aid is necessary, he said, "but the only lasting solution is to help poor rural communities to do without food aid by increasing their own production, first for on-farm consumption, and then for the market."

With 815 million undernourished people in the world - 777 million in the developing countries, 27 million in countries in transition and 11 million in the industrialized countries - Mr. Diouf called the average annual decline in the number of people suffering from hunger in the developing world "totally inadequate."

According to FAO, the yearly drop in the number of hungry people is only 6 million, far below the 22 million needed to reach the 1996 World Food Summit goal of halving the number of undernourished people in the world by 2015. "At the present rate, it will take more than 60 years to reach this objective," warned Dr. Diouf.

Also on Saturday, the Conference adopted a new treaty to ensure better use of plant genetic diversity to meet the challenge of eradicating world hunger.

The International Convention on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture "provides a framework to ensure access to plant genetic resources, and to related knowledge, technologies, and internationally agreed funding," FAO said in a statement.

The Convention revises the previous International Undertaking, which was adopted by the FAO Conference in 1983 as an instrument to promote international harmony in matters regarding access to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. It recognized Farmers' Rights as being complementary to plant Breeders' Rights.

One hundred and thirteen countries have adhered to the original International Undertaking, which seeks to "ensure that plant genetic resources of economic and/or social interest, particularly for agriculture, will be explored, preserved, evaluated and made available for plant breeding and scientific purposes."