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World Food Day celebrations begin
Keynote speech by the President of Hungary
11 October 2004, Rome- This year's World Food Day theme, "Biodiversity for Food Security", highlights the vital role of biodiversity in ensuring that all people have sustainable access to enough diversified food to lead active and healthy lives.

FAO estimates that about three-quarters of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops have been lost over the last century. And of 6 300 animal breeds, 1 350 are endangered or already extinct.

"The world's biodiversity is under threat and this could severely compromise global food security," FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf said in a message for World Food Day.

"As a consequence, the food supply becomes more vulnerable, there are less opportunities for growth and innovation in agriculture and less capacity for agriculture to adapt to environmental changes or to the appearance of new pests and diseases," Dr Diouf added.

Global efforts to conserve plants and animals in gene banks, botanical gardens and protected areas are vital. But an equally important task is to maintain biodiversity on farms and in nature.

Conserving biodiversity for agriculture will require efforts on many fronts including measures to preserve the environment, better education, increased research and government support, according to FAO.

In Rome and elsewhere

Each year on 16 October, FAO celebrates World Food Day in commemoration of its founding on that day in Quebec City in 1945. Several events take place on that occasion at FAO Headquarters in Rome, at the UN Headquarters in New York, and in more than 150 countries.

This year, the programme in Rome includes a series of events starting early this week with an exhibit showing why biodiversity is vital for food security and culminating with the traditional World Food Day ceremony on Friday 15 October during which Dr Jacques Diouf will award a special medal to former FAO Director-General Edouard Saouma and will announce the nomination of new FAO Goodwill Ambassadors.

The keynote speaker at the World Food Day ceremony will be the President of the Republic of Hungary Ferenc Màdl. A message from Pope John Paul II on the importance of biodiversity for human kind will be read by the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO, Monsignor Renato Volante.

A statement will also be delivered by a farmer leader, Mr Mamadou Cissokho, as farmers are the traditional custodians of biodiversity. After the ceremony, farmer leaders from all the regions of the world will meet in the FAO Atrium to share their experiences on biodiversity.

A civil society forum on agro-biodiversity will take place on the same day from 3 to 6 p.m. in FAO's Green Room. It will focus on the role of civil society in conserving biodiversity.


Contact:
Pierre Antonios
Media Relations Officer, FAO
pierre.antonios@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 53473

Contact:

Pierre Antonios
Media Relations Officer, FAO
pierre.antonios@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 53473

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World Food Day celebrations begin
Keynote speech by the President of Hungary
11 October 2004 - This year's World Food Day theme, "Biodiversity for Food Security", highlights the vital role of biodiversity in ensuring that all people have sustainable access to enough diversified food to lead active and healthy lives.
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