On 16 October 1945, 42 countries acted in Quebec, Canada, to create FAO — the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In doing so they took another important step forward in man's perpetual struggle against hunger and malnutrition. For through the establishment of FAO they provided themselves, and the many other nations that were to enter the Organization, with a mechanism through which its Member Countries could deal with a set of problems that are of major concern to all countries and all people.
These problems are not new. Early man, as a hunter of food, was engaged in the continuing struggle to feed himself, even as he emerged as a being that could walk upright and had a level of intelligence a notch above that of his ancestors. A few million years later he took his first giant step forward when he learned to cultivate plants and began to develop the art of farming. Over a period of perhaps two to five thousand years after this, he took his second giant step forward when he learned to domesticate animals.
With cultivated plants and domesticated animals at his command, man was much better able to ensure a steady food supply for himself. But these developments brought with them an extension of the problem, for they opened the way for a vast increase in the number of people the earth could support, and eventually that increase erupted into the population explosion the world has witnessed during the last century.
Man has made many further steps forward in his efforts to ensure an adequate food supply. Improved varieties of plants and more productive animals were developed. Farm machinery was created. Fertilizers and pesticides were developed and brought into widespread use. Improved methods of processing, storage and distribution were evolved. In some countries, most people were well fed, and some food surpluses came into being. But in many parts of the world the population increase outpaced increases in production, and many people were under-nourished, or malnourished, or both. Often, although food could be had at a price, the poorer people could not afford enough of it, and of the right kinds, to fully meet their nutritional needs.
The problem was brought into sharp focus by World War II. Agricultural production was disrupted in vast areas. Factories that produced fertilizers, pesticides and farm machinery were destroyed or diverted to other uses. Trade in and distribution of agricultural products was seriously disrupted. Thus, while the problem of food supplies had already been discussed in the League of Nations in 1935, and attention had been drawn a half-century earlier to the plight of farmers who were unable to maintain an adequate level of income, it was during this period of special stress that the formation of FAO was planned, and it was during the early part of the post-war reconstruction period that FAO was brought into being.