Press Releases

    13 October 2004

    Secretary-General, in World Food Day Message, Urges Greater Attention to Role of Biodiversity in Fight against Hunger

    NEW YORK, 12 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on World Food Day, observed on 16 October:

    Some 840 million people in the world suffer from chronic hunger.  Such large-scale hunger is not only unprecedented but also should be unacceptable in our world of plenty.  In a world in which enough food exists to feed every man, woman and child, we need to do far better -- politically, economically, scientifically, logistically -- if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half, by the year 2015, the proportion of people who suffer  from hunger.

    The theme of this year’s World Food Day observance, “Biodiversity for Food Security”, highlights the essential role of biodiversity in that effort.  Biodiversity provides the plant, animal and microbial genetic resources for food production and agricultural productivity.  It provides essential ecosystem services such as fertilizing the soil, recycling nutrients, regulating pests and disease, controlling erosion and pollinating many of our crops and trees.  Knowledge of biodiversity -- notably on the part of farmers responsible for their families’ health and well-being -- can ensure the availability of food during periods of crisis such as civil conflicts, natural calamities or disabling diseases.

    The unprecedented loss of biodiversity over the past century should thus raise the loudest of alarms.  Many freshwater fish species, which can provide crucial dietary diversity to the poorest households, have become extinct, and many of the world’s most important marine fisheries have been decimated.  Food supplies have also been made more vulnerable by our reliance on a very small number of species:  just 30 crop species dominate food production and 90 per cent of our animal food supply comes from just 14 mammal and bird species -- species which themselves rely on biodiversity for their productivity and survival.  There has been a substantial reduction in crop genetic diversity in the field and many livestock breeds are threatened with extinction.

    In 2002, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity pledged to achieve a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss by the year 2010, a goal subsequently endorsed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.  If we do not do more to meet this target and to conserve and sustainably use the world’s precious biodiversity, we will not fulfil our responsibility to feed the world.  And if we fail in that endeavour, there will be little hope of eradicating extreme poverty.  On this World Food Day, I urge individuals and institutions alike to give greater attention to biodiversity as a key theme in our efforts to fight the twin scourges of hunger and poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

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