World Food Day 2004 highlights the importance of biodiversity to global food security
Agricultural diversity holds one of the keys to ending hunger, FAO Director-General says
15 October 2004, Rome- Biological diversity is one of the keys to ending world hunger, Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said today.
He was speaking at a ceremony marking World Food Day 2004, which falls on the anniversary of the foundation of FAO in 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 high-ranking officials and representatives from FAO Member States, international organizations, other UN agencies, NGOs, civil society and farmers' groups.
In his address, he underlined the need to maintain biodiversity in nature and on farms to ensure to all people a sustainable access to enough diversified and nutritious food.
"But we are also raising an alarm", he added. "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."
A key to survival
"For many rural families, the sustainable use of local biodiversity is their key to survival. It allows them to exploit marginal lands and ensure a minimum level of food production even when faced with extremely harsh conditions," Dr. Diouf said.
"Global food security depends not just on protecting the world's genetic resources, but also on ensuring that these resources remain available to all," he pointed out.
"Preserving the world's agricultural biodiversity needs to be viewed as a joint effort involving farmers, commercial plant breeders and the scientific community," the FAO Director-General also said.
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."
Mr. Màdl called on all countries to "create conditions to facilitate access to genetic resources for environmentally sound uses."
He also said that his country, which was among the countries that welcomed and ratified the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, is "a leading place in Central Europe to breed traditional and new plant varieties."
The Treaty, which entered into force this year, is a binding international instrument that secures the conservation and sustainable utilization of the world's agricultural genetic diversity. It 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.
Message from the Pope
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.
Statements were also delivered in succession, by Mr. Teresio Delfino, Italy's Undersecretary of State for Agricultural and Forestry Policies, Mr. Edouard Saouma, former Director-General of FAO, and Mr. Mamadou Cissokho, Honorary President of the Network of Peasant Organizations and Producers of West Africa and of the National Council of Senegal for Dialogue and Rural Cooperation.
Dr. Diouf awarded a special FAO Medal to his predecessor, Mr. Saouma, and World Food Day 2004 Medals to the three first prize winners of the World Food Day poster competition, organized by the United Nations Women's Guild.
During the same ceremony, Dr. Diouf introduced the newly appointed FAO Goodwill Ambassador, Italian ballerina Carla Fracci, who is considered one of the greatest classical dancers of the 20th century. Carla Fracci is now Director of the Balletto dell'Opera of Rome.
FAO Goodwill Ambassadors are distinguished women and men of talent who, through their work and in their daily lives, help to focus global attention on the need to free the world from hunger and poverty.
A musical presentation followed. Internationally renowned Albanian violonist Anyla Kraja performed "Schindler's list" by J. Williams, while Angolan singer and dancer Tasha Rodrigues and her musical group performed two songs from her last CD "Kyra Kyra".
During World Food Day's observance at FAO headquarters, a farmers' event also took place as well as a civil society forum. For the first time on World Food Day, 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, various events were organized to celebrate World Food Day's theme. 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.
Media Relations Officer, FAO
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