Ruth Messinger Delivers World Food Day Message: Challenge Unfair Trade Policies, Reform Foreign Assistance and Support Local Farming

AJWS President Responds to Grim UN Report

New York, NY; Oct. 16, 2009 — American Jewish World Service (AJWS) president Ruth W. Messinger has issued a statement in response to this week’s report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which concluded that hunger now affects more than 1 billion people worldwide. On World Food Day, Messinger is calling on Americans to challenge international trade policies that favor corporations at the expense of the world’s poorest people. In her statement, she also pushes for foreign assistance reform and the empowerment of local farmers in the developing world.

Messinger said: “A report this week by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) includes the devastating finding that more than 1 billion people worldwide are now hungry and that much of the progress in hunger reduction that we saw in the 1980s began to reverse in 1995. Unfortunately, the report fails to note that this was precisely the time when various free trade agreements began to undermine local food production around the world.

“For nearly 15 years, small and medium-scale farmers have been pushed out of their local markets by large agri-businesses dumping quantities of surplus food in developing countries below the cost of production. This has destroyed local farming and undermined economic development in many regions of the world, and it has left one-sixth of the world’s population completely dependent on aid.

“The report correctly pointed to the shameful lack of international investment in sustainable agriculture at the local level. But along with these investments, we all must realize that geo-politics and policy are major factors contributing to the rise of hunger. Since hunger is political, we must challenge the system that has turned food into a commodity rather than a human right.

“Today is World Food Day, a perfect time for all of us commit to the principle that fighting hunger from the ground up starts with us.  We can have a huge impact by empowering local farming efforts and call on our own government to re-evaluate its foreign assistance and trade policies, which too often serve multinational agribusiness conglomerates at the expense of local famers in developing countries.”

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