World Food Day TeleconferenceAnn M. Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture
October 16, 2004
Released by the USDA Office of Communications
SECRETARY VENEMAN: Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us for the 21st annual World Food Day Teleconference. World Food Day provides a good opportunity for us to acknowledge our accomplishments across the world and to examine how we can do even more. The theme for this year's World Food Day is 'Biodiversity for Food Security.' Our nation is strongly committed to protecting and promoting biodiversity.
Last June, President Bush reaffirmed our support for the G8 Action Plan on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development. In June 2003, I was proud to host the historic Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology in California. Follow-up regional conferences were held in Costa Rica this past May and Burkina Faso in June.
USDA is working with several organizations to improve agricultural technology use and productivity in Africa and other poor regions in order to promote hardier crops for healthier people. Under the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, we are working to identify standard agreements that will facilitate the smooth international exchange of genetic material.
This will help ensure that important research into plant breeding continues to advance. And, we are preparing for the Paris Conference on Biodiversity in January of 2005. Here in the United States, we are committed to preserving the diversity of plants and animals from around the world. USDA's Agricultural Research Service operates a network of 20 repositories, or 'banks,' that make up the National Plant Germplasm System. These repositories hold germplasm for scientists to study, for breeders to grow, and for land managers to use. The 'central bank' of the system, near Denver, Colorado, contains nearly half a million samples.
Last month in New York at the United Nations, I participated in the Action Against Hunger and Poverty Summit. That forum again emphasized that more must be done to realize the global goal of reducing, by half, the number of hungry people by 2015. The United States must and will play a major role in that effort. Our country is the world's largest provider of food aid and the leading contributor to the World Food Program.
Our Food for Peace Program, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, has helped billions of people in developing countries. Just this year, for example, we have provided more than $112 million in food aid to help nearly 950,000 people in Darfur. But that and other aid programs are only temporary solutions to food insecurity.
Increasing agricultural productivity is one of the pathways to a permanent solution. Science and technology have the potential to raise agricultural productivity, increase income, and ultimately improve nutrition and health across the world. Last year's Sacramento Ministerial brought greater awareness to the opportunities that science and technology offer in curbing hunger and malnutrition. When linked to sound policies, science and technology can play a critical role in the fight against hunger and poverty in an environmentally sustainable way.
We will continue to pursue new ways to use science and technology to feed the world, and to promote biodiversity for the good of all people. Thank you again for participating in this program and for your efforts to help feed the world.