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Against the backdrop of possible famine in southern Africa and debate over
genetically modified foods, delegates at the U.N. World Food Summit called
Monday for governments to make good on pledges to end world hunger, reports
the Associated Press, October 2006.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the summit by urging greater
access for the world's farmers to land, credit, markets and technology -
including technology to help them grow more resistant crops.
"There is no shortage of food on the planet," Annan told delegates at the
U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. "But while some countries produce
more than they need to feed their people, others do not, and many of these
cannot afford to import enough to make up the gap." The summit is expected
to conclude Thursday with a declaration recommitting governments to promises
to cut hunger they made in 1996 at the first food summit.
During that meeting, delegates pledged to reduce the number of hungry people
in the world from 800 million to 400 million by 2015. Today, the number of
people without enough to eat, however, remains at 800 million, according to
"So there is no point in making further promises today," Annan said. "This
summit must give renewed hope to those 800 million people by agreeing on
Pope John Paul II, in a message read to the summit on his behalf, said the
reasons that the 1996 goals hadn't been met were due to inertia, selfishness
"and to international relations often shaped by pragmaticism devoid of
ethical and moral grounds."
Annan cited the growing food crisis in southern Africa as an area for urgent
action - an issue that is expected to figure prominently in speeches as well
as in side events tackling issues such as the role of women in fighting
An estimated 12.8 million people in six southern African countries are at
risk of starvation because of drought, floods, government mismanagement and
Other issues are likely to crop up at the summit and on the sidelines as
well - among them international trade policies, calls for delegates
acknowledge the "right to food" for all, and the use of genetically altered
The United States has been a major advocate of genetically modified foods,
arguing that the creation of drought - and-insect resistant crops ensures
greater food security - a goal of the FAO, writes AP.
Opponents say engineered crops pose environmental and health hazards and are
designed to benefit the multinational corporations that develop them, not
farmers or consumers.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Sunday such opposition was due
to ignorance about the benefits of biotechnology, which she said she would
highlight in her speech later Monday.
"We are already seeing new products being developed that could help some of
the more food-deficit regions of the world," she said in an interview,
citing drought-resistant corn and Vitamin A-enriched rice.
The United States has clashed with other delegations on another major issue
on the agenda, that of having the summit agree to a code of conduct
recognizing the "right to food" of the world's 6 billion people.
Late Sunday, a watered-down compromise appeared to have been reached on the
final wording of the document, in which there would be no explicit
recognition of the "right to food," the Italian group Other Agriculture
Delegates would instead call for a code of conduct that would "create the
conditions necessary" to recognize the right to food, the group said.
The United States opposes the concept because it doesn't address practical
ways of ending hunger but rather turns it into a philosophical debate, said
Alan Larson, the undersecretary of state for economic affairs at the U.S.
State Department and a delegation member.
Non-governmental organizations are also pressing summit delegates to open
markets to farmers in the developing world, arguing that subsidized imports
from the European Union and United States were putting them out of business.
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