SERIOUS MONDAY: UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON RIGHT TO FOOD REPORT

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According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Jean Ziegler, there was enough food on the planet to feed 12 billion people, almost double the current world population, yet worldwide hunger was growing and the causes are all man-made.

“A child died from malnutrition or related causes every five seconds,” stated Ziegler. “Every child who dies from hunger is assassinated because it could have been prevented.”

Mr. Ziegler explained the right to food is defined, according to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights as, “the right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of the people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensures a physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and dignified life free of fear.”

In many parts of the world, that right has been violated. Mr. Ziegler highlighted the growth of unnecessary hunger worldwide resulting in a refugee problem and the negative impact on hunger when biofuel production replaced food production.

Mr. Ziegler also stated those fleeing starvation, particularly in Africa, were turned back through military intervention. He appealed to the UN’s Human Rights Council to declare protection of refugees fleeing hunger as a human right. He also called for the establishment of a provisional right to stay in a country with adequate food supply, during time of famine in a refugee’s home country.

“The creation of pure fuels or biofuels to protect the environment and reduce dependence was not a bad idea, but its negative impact on hunger would be catastrophic. When tons of maize, wheat, beans, and other food staples were converted to fuel, food prices rose and the arable land was lost to fuel production. “The world price of wheat doubled in one year and the price of maize quadrupled” said Mr. Ziegler.

Mr. Ziegler warned that converting arable land to pure fuel production was a “crime against humanity” and called for a five year moratorium on such activity.

Currently 31 of 53 African states had to import food and as the prices rose, the poorest countries were unable to pay. The amount of corn that needed to be burned to make enough ethanol to fill a single car’s fuel tank could feed a child for a year.

To questions concerning the effectiveness of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme, he praised their activities, noting for example, that the World Food Programme supplied fresh water, basic medicines and foodstuffs to the refugees in Dakar every morning. However, he said that, owing to rising food costs, the United States has reduced its contribution to the World Food Programme by half this year.

He stated in countries where people did not face a daily battle against hunger, the public was only aware of the environmental benefits of biofuels. In order for every human being on the planet to enjoy the right to food, we must raise public awareness of the devastating effects conversion to biofuels would have on large segments of the global population.

Dawn

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