High-power panelists argue over food security

On the eve of a summit of French-speaking countries, African leaders, business executives and a United Nations food expert debated how to feed a hungry planet.

This content was published on October 22, 2010 minutes and agencies

A high-power panel discussion that included Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck, the director general of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, as well as a UN food security envoy and representatives of African producers showed that overcoming divisions and skepticism between business leaders and farmers remains a daunting task.

“When economists meet to talk about agriculture, it doesn’t work,” said Djibo Bagna, president of Roppa, a West African farmer and food producers network. “We don’t need a river of words. They promise us things and they never arrive. We are wasting our time.”

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey offered opening remarks, stressing that people have a moral and political duty to make sure everyone has enough to eat.

The discussion was held on Friday, one day before the summit, La Francophonie, kicks off in Montreux. The panelists offered reasons why people around the world are still malnourished.

Brabeck said neither climate change nor commodity speculation were responsible but over population. Lamy said agricultural investment, eradicating poverty and waste, and bolstering international trade are key to solving the problem.

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré took a middle position, saying climate change played a role but that technology and trade could help producers become more efficient. “You need to be able to sell to be able to produce,” he said.

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