I thank you for joining us to celebrate the International Year of Quinoa.
This extraordinary grain has been a cultural anchor and a staple in the diet of millions of people throughout the Andes for thousands of years.
Now, thanks to the initial efforts of Bolivia and the agreement of the General Assembly, quinoa is now poised for global recognition.
I commend President Morales for his foresight and his commitment to the important issue of food and nutrition security.
Last year, at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil, I launched the Zero Hunger Challenge.
Quinoa can make a significant contribution.
The grain has two great advantages.
First, it is highly nutritious.
It is gluten-free, contains all the essential oils and amino acids, and is a good source of calcium, iron and protein.
Second, quinoa is adaptable. It can be grown in many different ecological and climatic conditions – including where soil moisture is low.
This is especially important in a warming world, in which desertification and land degradation are becoming ever more pressing issues.
The tolerance of quinoa to arid conditions makes it an attractive crop for farmers in all regions.
That is why quinoa cultivation is expanding from the Andean region to include Kenya, India, North America and Europe.
Most quinoa growers are small-scale farmers. The crop holds the promise of improved income – a key plank of the Zero Hunger Challenge.
Some of the poorest Andean indigenous smallholders have already benefitted greatly from rising prices with the growing popularity of quinoa in export markets.
But let us also beware of potential pitfalls.
As prices rise along with export demand, the poor risk being excluded from their staple grain in local markets in favour of cheaper, less nutritious processed food.
Even growers can be tempted to sell all their crop and eat less healthily.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Many nations in South America are making strong progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals of reducing hunger by half.
This has been achieved not just by increasing food production but by reducing poverty and increasing access to nutritious food.
Quinoa can play an important role in helping accelerate progress, in South America and beyond.
The deadline for the MDGs is fast approaching. Much remains to be done.
We must especially work to close the gaps among and within countries.
Too many inequalities remain, particularly among remote and indigenous communities, where child malnutrition and stunting is still prevalent.
The First Lady of Peru, Madam Heredia Humala, is a committed member of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement Lead Group.
She knows that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are decisive in determining his or her future health, intelligence and ability to contribute to society.
Mothers and children need the best nutrition available.
That is why the government of Bolivia is supplying quinoa as part of a nutritional supplement programme to pregnant and nursing women, and Peru is incorporating quinoa in school breakfasts.
I believe quinoa is truly a food for the MDGs and can make an important contribution to post-2015 development strategies.
I hope this International Year of Quinoa will be a catalyst for learning about the potential of quinoa for food and nutrition security, for reducing poverty – especially among the world’s small farmers – and for environmentally sustainable agriculture.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention a third advantage to quinoa, beyond nutrition and adaptability.
It is versatile and delicious -- as we will discover soon when we meet for lunch.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let us work together to make sure the benefits of this extraordinary grain can be felt by those who need it most.
Let us use this International Year of Quinoa to reap the harvest of this “future sown thousands of years ago”.
I thank you very much.