The international community must respond to the moral imperative of ensuring access to basic foods as “a right of all people,” Pope Francis told delegates to the 39th FAO Conference during a special audience at the Vatican.
“If all Member states work for one another, consensus for action by FAO will not be late in arriving, and moreover, FAO’s original role will be rediscovered – fiat panis, ‘let there be bread,” he said, quoting the Latin phrase that appears on the Organization’s logo.
In remarks heard by representatives of over 120 countries, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva and the current Chairperson of the Conference, Le Mamea Ropati Mualia, the Pontiff stressed the importance of reducing food waste, providing nutrition education, and creating a sense of global solidary to ensure food security for all people.
“The statistics on food waste are cause for concern,” Francis affirmed, referencing FAO data which show that over one third of all food produced on the planet is lost or wasted.
We must all “decisively commit” to modifying our lifestyles and using natural resources in a more sustainable manner, he said, adding: “Sobriety is not in opposition to development, indeed it is now clear that the one is a necessary condition for the other.”
In a brief meeting with the FAO Director-General, Pope Francis underscored the importance of publicly discussing his next encyclical in FAO and and institutions.
He also stressed the importance of FAO’s ongoing efforts to decentralize, “so as to be in the midst of the rural world, in order to understand the needs of the people the Organization is here to serve,” the Pope said.
The Pontiff also invited those present to reflect on the consequences of market speculation in agricultural commodity and food price volatility for food security – especially for family farmers.
“Volatile food prices prevent the poor from planning ahead, from being able to count on getting even a minimum level of nutrition,” he remarked.
“Let us seek another path,” he said describing food’s true value as a sacred one, made so through the daily work of people, families, and farming communities.
The Pope called on delegates to position agriculture at the heart of national economic activities, and to support resilience-building efforts aimed at reinforcing communities’ capacities to cope with disasters caused by nature or mankind’s own activities.
He also expressed concern over large scale acquisitions of agricultural land by transnational companies and governments, which “not only deprives farmers of an essential good,” but also “affects the sovereignty of nations.”
Pope Francis also reflected on his participation at last November’s Second International Conference on Nutrition, where he urged world leaders to transform declarations into concrete actions to raise the nutritional level of their peoples. He cited a responsibility to “respond concretely to the needs of the hungry and all those who are looking for, in agricultural development, a response to their situation.”