New FAO Head Makes Reform Pledge

New FAO Head Makes Reform Pledge

Meeting the challenge of world food insecurity requires widespread change.

As Jose Graziano da Silva takes the reins of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, he accepts a big challenge - to end food insecurity for the world. Graziano da Silva says the FAO must work to overcome a growing rift between developed countries and emerging nations. The developing countries provided the bulk of the FAO's $2.2 billion budget, while emerging nations are hard hit by rising food prices.

During a speech made after he won election to the new post, Graziano da Silva talked of improving support of countries at the regional level and working to expand disaster relief work.

With record food prices making headlines, the often low-key FAO is stepping up its game with Graziano da Silva at the head of the effort. He did back the claim of the French that much of the recent food price volatility is driven by "contaminated" commodity markets. He even singled out Europe with private rules for standards of quality and standards of production.

He did strike out against global companies monopolizing seed trade, which he says shouldn't be subject to a monopoly.

There's controversy over the FAO with some countries, specifically the United Kingdom and the United States taking other actions. The U.S., for example, has started agricultural development projects overseas on its own. Graziano da Silva says Africa will remain a priority and he will push for reforms.

The challenge he faces is that in the year 2000, world leaders set a goal of halving the portion of the world population suffering from hunger, which would reduce it to about 7%. However, around 13% are now undernourished according to the agency's latest figures. Small change since the number was 14% in 2000. And rising food prices have been part of the problem.

As the view of food and agricultural aid changes, the FAO appears poised to take a leading role in the conversation.

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