Marking World Food Day today, 150 countries celebrated the contributions of different cultures to creating modern agriculture and diet, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said.
Giving examples, FAO said Africa gave the world coffee, now a popular beverage worldwide. Asia domesticated certain species of rice which became the staple food for over half of the world's population, while wheat from the Middle East became the dominant crop in North America and Europe.
The potato brought to Europe from South America by the Spanish "Conquistadores" in the 16th century became the main staple food for millions in Europe and elsewhere, the agency said, emphasizing that intercultural dialogue is a precondition for progress against hunger and environmental degradation.
“Throughout history, the intercultural movement of crops and livestock breeds revolutionized diets and reduced poverty,” the FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf pointed out in a message commemorating the day.
However, despite the fact that there is enough food to feed every human being on the planet, more th an 6 million people have already died this year from the little-noticed chronic disaster of hunger and related diseases and more than 850 million people currently suffer from chronic hunger and under-nutrition.
In his message on the occasion, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for partnerships to reach the first Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and extreme poverty.
“We need to mobilize political will and public engagement at the community, national and global levels,” he said. “We need to share expertise and pool commitment among cultures, communities, countries and continents.”
Mr. Diouf was scheduled to address a World Food Day ceremony at FAO's Rome headquarters, introducing three newly appointed FAO Goodwill Ambassadors. They are Paraguay's First Lady María Gloria Penayo de Duarte, who will be nominated first Extraordinary Ambassador of FAO, 1997 world athletics champion in discus throwing, Beatrice Faumuina of New Zealand, and Irish singer Ronan Keating, who has set up the Marie Keating Foundation.
Since 1999 FAO Goodwill Ambassadors have helped FAO fulfil its mission by putting an extra spotlight on the problem of hunger.
World Food Day is commemorated each year on 16 October, the day on which FAO was founded in 1945.