World Food Summit plus five

Five years of failure to fight hunger

Feature story - 10 June, 2002
In 1996, world governments committed to halving hunger. Now they're being called to account for lack of progress toward this goal.

A Bangladeshi farmer using organic methods plants young rice into soil that has been recently flooded.

During 10-13 June 2002, world leaders will meet in Rome for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's "World Food Summit: five years later" to assess progress towards ending world hunger. In 1996, government representatives promised to halve the number of undernourished people in the world and committed to the "Rome Declaration on World Food Security."

Today this target is still far beyond reach. On the eve of the World Food Summit, more than 800 million people are suffering from malnutrition and starvation. A considerable amount of malnutrition exists even in "developed countries" due to poor diet. This situation persists in spite of global food supply growing faster than population in recent decades. It shows that the notion of "feeding the world" by following the Northern industrialised model of agriculture is a simplistic, misleading cliché.

Food is more than a commodity -- it is a basic human right. This must be reflected in the policies of governments (north and south), international organisations and the private sector. Real progress will only be achieved if the poor are enabled to feed themselves. Environmentally friendly practices are literally already in the ground but desperately lack funding and policy support. The web site www.farmingsolutions.org shows how food security and sustainable livelihoods can be achieved by innovative, environmentally responsible agriculture systems, without threatening biodiversity, eroding the soil base, polluting water or endangering human health.

The agrochemical industry argues that GE (genetric engineering) has a central role to play in enhancing agricultural productivity in poor countries. This claim is based on the assumption that hunger exists because of a gap between food production and human population and that there are simple technical fixes for it. GE proponents ignore the fact that most hungry people live in countries that have food surpluses rather than deficits. The FAO confirms that the world produces enough food to feed all the people who inhabit it. Food security -- the ability of a community to feed itself consistently on a diverse diet -- requires, among other things, access to land and money. GE provides neither.

GE could even worsen the situation through the increasing monopolisation of the seed market and companies' moves to deny farmers their ancient right to save, exchange and replant seeds.

Greenpeace calls upon governments to engage for food sovereignity and to commit itself to concrete actions. Rather than pushing the agenda of a handful of agribusiness giants, successful models of environmentally and socially sustainable agriculture should be applied, further developed and refined in a truly participatory fashion for the immediate benefit of farmers and the livelihoods of the rural poor.

Greenpeace urges governments to immediately ratify both the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The sovereign right of countries to prohibit any imports of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and to protect national genetic resources from genetic contamination must be recognized.

The basic human right of food for all must take precedence over trade agreements. Food sovereignty must rank above WTO rules and procedures. The "true costs" of food production (including the environmental costs and benefits not reflected in prices) must be the basis for structuring incentives in agriculture policies. So far, neither the environmentally beneficial aspects of ecologically sound agriculture nor the destructive effects of conventional farming are being adequately addressed by agricultural policy and the incentive structures it creates.

Links

World Food Summit site

Farming Solutions site

Reports

Food dictators won't feed the world

Recipes against hunger

Empty promises