14-16 OCTOBER 2001

Why are so many people hungry in a world that produces enough for all?

by Alan Randell

The terrorist attacks of 11 September have unleashed an avalanche of fear within the public. In light of anthrax and the threat of bio-terrorism, Alan Randell, senior officer for food standards of the FAO, urged authorities to increase their surveillance of food and water supplies. "The best method to reduce the risk of bio-terrorism is preparedness. Health authorities in different countries must ensure that authorities have adequate information."

He added that WHO had launched an informative website on the deliberate use of biological agents and chemicals as weapons ( and that FAO intended to launch a rapid alert system to help authorities deal with food safety problems, hopefully later this month. FAO officials also added that terrorists may target the food supplies of countries by introducing diseases in a bid to undermine their economies.

Speaking on the issue of food quality and safety, he concluded with the following points:

- Food that causes illness or is otherwise unacceptable does not contribute to food security. Food that has deteriorated in quality may contribute to food security, but its contribution may need to be discounted.

- The right to safe food is an unqualified right; the right to choice of foods and the consumer's "right to know" may be mitigated by the availability of food and cost.

- About US$300 billion on agricultural food products (excluding fish) moves in trade each year and the greater part of this is accepted as safe by import authorities, indicating that by and large food control systems are exerting a positive protecting effect for consumers.

- Food aid should be subject to the same conditions of import and distribution as food offered for sale.

Related links:

"International Consensus-Building on Biotechnology and Food Safety: The Work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission", by Alan Randell (pdf document)

"Food Quality and Safety: A Priority Area of FAO", by Allan Randell (pdf document)

Codex Alimentarius website

WHO website on the deliberate use of biological agents and chemicals as weapons

Back to main page

Click below to read presentations:

The State of Food Insecurity 2001, by Hartwig de Haen

The Impact of Globalization and Trade Liberalization on Food Security, by Hartwig de Haen

The cost of hunger, by Jean-Louis Arcand

HIV/AIDS and food security, by Marcela Villarreal

The potential of new technology: how to feed a growing world population, by Jim Dargie

Does it make sense to talk about agriculture today?, by Louise Fresco

World Food Day, by Margareta Winberg

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