Rome (AsiaNews) – “Give food to those who are dying of hunger because if you do not, you shall have killed him,” warned Benedict XVI in the message to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that Card Tarcisio Bertone read this morning at the Rome headquarters of the UN body where a meeting between various heads of state and food emergency officials is currently underway.
The FAO summit which will be held until 5 June is trying to tackle the food emergency that is affecting many countries as a result of skyrocketing prices and a farming crisis caused by climate change, the use of grains in bio-fuel production and rising energy consumption in emerging economies.
Whilst listing all these problems, the Pope’s message stressed that hunger is an ethical problem. For him the “main cause of hunger [lies] in people’s coldness to their fellow human beings which eats away at solidarity, justifies consumption-oriented lifestyles and undermines the social fabric, maintaining if not accentuating the degree of social injustice at the expense of deepest needs to be good.”
Reiterating this point the Holy Father said that the “primary right to food is intrinsically linked to the safeguarding and defence of human life” which is the “solid and inviolable building block on which human rights stand.”
For this reason “hunger and malnutrition are unacceptable in a world which has, in fact, levels of production, resources and knowledge sufficient to put an end to such tragedies and their consequences.”
Hence Benedict XVI proposes “to ‘globalise’ not just economic and commercial interests, but also the call for solidarity, whilst respecting and taking advantage of the contribution of all components of society.”
In order to do so he suggests a few steps to guarantee food security:
a) reform UN bodies which are still too “subordinated to the decisions of a few”;
b) cooperate with civil society involved in filling the “gap between wealth and poverty”;
c) “increase the availability of food by rewarding small farmers’ hard work and guarantee them market access; too often in fact, small farmers are penalised domestically by industrial farming and internationally by protectionist policies and practices.
The Pontiff noted that modern technologies, statistical approaches and emergency food aid “are not enough to meet shortfalls in food”. What is needed is “political action which [. . .] protects the dignity of the individual.”
The “rural family” must also be given its due on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity so that it can systematically and effectively support production, distribution and marketing of farm products.
Almost as if it were meant to back the Pope’s arguments, FAO director-general, Jacques Diouf, this morning described the great chasm that exists in the world between what the world spends on weapons (US$ 1.2 trillion in 2006), what one country wastes in food (US$ 100 billion), what overweight people consume in excess (US$ 20 billion) and what it would take to spare the world its current food crisis (US$ 30 billion per year).