Holy See: Human Needs Lost in Fight Against Hunger

Emphasizes Importance of Agriculture in Development

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ROME, NOV. 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- In the fight against hunger, human needs are not always ranked first, and the results are negative, says a Holy See representative.

Monsignor Renato Volante, permanent observer of the Holy See at the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), affirmed this at the group's 35th special session, held last week.

The priest affirmed that the address from his delegation "does not want to offer technical solutions, but rather to suggest an ideal orientation which may help in making concrete choices, focusing on the needs of each human person, especially when they are limited by conditions of life which compromise a dignified human life."

The FAO, he noted, is more and more called on to respond to the needs of states that have a growing lack of food.

These needs, the monsignor said, "are determined by a more general economically unfavorable situation, by natural conditions, but also by human interventions which often pursue partial interests or even show signs of indifference toward the fight against malnutrition."

Nevertheless, Monsignor Volante continued, the FAO faces more than just this problem.

He said that it is clear that "there are 'new' situations involving the agricultural sector. [...]. Among these, as underlined by the recent food crisis, the judgment about the central role of agriculture seems to stand out with a particular emphasis in the wider reality of economic activity and its important contribution to a realistic, sustainable development."

To make the FAO more effective, the monsignor contended, "it is necessary to recognize that fighting against hunger is conditioned by multiple factors and by the motives inspiring it. But too often strategies are adopted which pursue particular goals rather then a holistic vision which ranks the human needs first. Such an attitude produces negative effects in the rural sector, especially where poverty, underdevelopment, malnutrition and environmental degradation are more evident."

Thus, he said, the Holy See is "firmly convinced that the FAO structure and its activities must underline the essential importance of agriculture in the development processes, not promoting the mere management but those far-sighted management criteria and interventions which will really respond to the needs."

In the future

Monsignor Volante suggested that the future of the "rural world" will contain two main aspects: "First, the protection of the different agricultural ecosystems which are conditioned by climatic change causing floods or desertification even in areas that had never known such phenomena before.

"Second, the growing role of new processing techniques and the support that they receive both in their production process and in the food trade and use."

These situations are well-understood, the Holy See representative contended, and remedies for problems are known, but "the rush toward more immediate objectives causes a postponement of their feasibility, which should start from those possible and urgent recovering interventions in consumption standards and in the respect for creation."

A reform of the FAO "does not mean to be closed to new and perhaps better results made possible by scientific and technological research and new production systems," he clarified, "but what it does propose is an ordered balance between those systems and a proper prevention of the risks for people and the ecosystems."

"This means that an ordered research aimed at improving agricultural production so as to meet the growing food demand, must not forget the reasons of food security which is the consumers' health, nor crop sustainability, i.e. the environmental protection," he said.

Monsignor Volante concluded by urging the FAO to "further effort to cope with problems by paying proper attention to the needs of the least, in our case of those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition and more generally those who draw their living, employment and income from rural work."

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