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Presiding bishop calls for increased investment in food security as G20 agricultural ministers meet

[Episcopal News Service] As agriculture ministers from the Group of 20 (G20) nations meet in Paris, France, this week to discuss how to combat food shortage and soaring prices, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, urging "consideration of the needs of people in developing countries most affected by food insecurity."

Jefferts Schori, noting that most of the Anglican Communion's 80 million members live in developing countries, said: "The focus on food at this year's G20 represents an important recognition by the world's leaders that rising food prices present a potential crisis for areas of the world most affected by hunger and malnutrition, especially Africa and South and Southeast Asia."

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, said on June 21 that volatile food prices are "the single gravest threat" that developing nations are facing.

Jefferts Schori said in her June 21 letter that she is mindful of the budget shortfalls presently faced by the United States and most of the world's industrialized countries, but that increasing investment in food security "will strengthen the entire global economy and ultimately lead to billions of dollars in savings for the United States and other industrialized countries. Investment in food security truly is investment in the future."

Earlier this week, the Anglican primates of Australia, Canada, Korea, Southern Africa and Wales, and the moderator of North India wrote to the G20 agriculture ministers to press for measures to combat high food prices and urging them to offer more support for small farmers and more investment in agriculture.

"The moves have come amidst mounting concern over the price spikes and food insecurity that have left 900 million people around the world hungry," according to a press release from the Anglican Alliance on Advocacy, Relief and Development.

According to reports, the World Bank said that since June last year, rising food prices have led to an estimated 44 million more people living in poverty, on less than $1.25 a day.

"While all G20 nations have agreed that steps must be taken to tackle surging food prices, they are split over whether prices should be tamed by regulation or by increased agricultural production," according to a Reuters article.

"With my fellow Anglican leaders, I am particularly encouraged by the growing global consensus for reducing food prices through increased agricultural spending, research and development in agricultural productivity, and the easing of trade barriers," she added. "Moreover, as an American, I am particularly heartened by the president's Feed the Future initiative, a recognition that food security holds an important key in eradicating global poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals."

However, to build on these commitments Jefferts Schori urged the G20 leaders to consider four steps: enhanced global support for small-scale and subsistence farmers; increased investment in agricultural research and better dissemination of research information among farmers in developing countries; incorporating food security measures into wider strategies for reducing global poverty and achieving the MDGs; and "keep[ing] the promises they have made already in the area of food and hunger policy."


Copyright © 2011 Episcopal News Service