FAO Summit Was Positive, Despite Absences, Says Vatican Aide

Many First-World Nations Didn´t Attend

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ROME, JUNE 17, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican´s permanent observer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said last week´s food summit was in itself positive, even though most industrialized countries didn´t attend.

In an evaluation of the meeting for the Italian bishops´ SIR agency, Monsignor Agostino Marchetto said, “The fact that we met together to discuss such important problems and to renew the commitments made in 1996, must be assessed positively.”

“In evaluating such an event, one must ask the question: And if it hadn´t been held? Despite its dark and weak aspects, in any event, it attempts to respond to the scandal of 815 million people who suffer hunger in the world,” the Vatican´s permanent observer emphasized.

Monsignor Marchetto added, “The summit was not attended by the principal chiefs of state and government. And this surely denotes lack of interest. Indeed, when one is concerned, one is present.”

Regarding the use of genetically modified foods, he said, “The hunger battle can be won without taking recourse to them. However, this does not mean being closed to the progress of human science — when the latter is combined with concern for the good of the community and respects biodiversity.”

The June 10-13 summit here brought together 6,613 participants from 181 countries; 74 heads of state and government; 1,000 organizations (including 550 nongovernmental ones); and 1,600 journalists.

Jacques Diouf, FAO´s director general, lamented that the press did not give an accurate picture of the summit.

“How can it be said that the summit was useless?” Diouf asked. “For the first time, we were able to study concrete matters and initiate food safety programs in 69 countries.”

He admitted, however, that important leaders were missing. “Many chiefs of state of the Pacific, Africa and Latin America came — and too few from the rich world. I do not think it is a good political sign.”

Many commentators said there were no concrete, binding and serious decisions resulting from the meeting. The only certainty is that the goal envisioned by the 1996 summit — to halve the number of the world´s hungry by 2015 — is proving elusive.

Diouf called on the international community to commit $24 billion voluntariy to reach the goal.

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