“Overwhelming” food crisis requires coherent response, archishop tells UN

“Overwhelming” food crisis requires coherent response, archishop tells UN

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi


A “coherent response” is necessary to address the “overwhelming challenge” of the food crisis caused by a surge in global food prices. The remedy is a new mentality that would “place the human person at the center and not focus simply on economic profit,” Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi said to the Human Rights Council on Thursday.

Archbishop Tomasi, head of the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, said that the public must realize that chronic hunger can cause violent conflict, uncontrolled migrations, environmental problems, epidemics, and even terrorism.

The archbishop said that intergovernmental agencies “rightfully have concluded that hunger is not due to lack of food.”  Rather, he said, hunger is caused by the lack of both physical and financial access to agricultural resources.

The food crisis should direct everyone’s attention to the 854 million people plagued by chronic hunger, whose ranks are joined by four million new people each year, the archbishop said.

“Higher prices may cause some inconvenience to families in developed countries since they find it necessary to spend 20% of their income on food. However, such prices are life threatening for the one billion people living in poor countries since they are forced to spend nearly all their daily income of $1 per day in search of food,” Archbishop Tomasi said.

The present food production problem, he said, is more than a “temporary emergency.”  Rather, it is structural in nature and should be approached in the context of just and sustainable economic growth.

The archbishop also pointed out that international trade and liberalization in agricultural products tend to favor multinational corporations over small local farms, which he said are the base of food security in developing countries.  The remedies, he said, are investment in agriculture and rural development and solidarity with the most vulnerable.  Also important is the condemnation of hoarding and price speculation as “unacceptable,” and the recognition of individual property rights. 

The archbishop called for the elimination of unfair agricultural subsidies and the organization of cooperative structures for smaller farms.  The use of food production, he said, eventually has to be balanced “by mechanisms that respond to the common good” and not the market.

Archbishop Tomasi closed his address with a call for a new mentality that would “place the human person at the center and not focus simply on economic profit.”