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Minister of State Sargent Highlights Twin Challenges of Food Security and Climate Change

Speaking on the occasion of World Food Day 2009, Mr. Trevor Sargent T.D. Minister of State for Food and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food today emphasised that "notwithstanding our current economic difficulties, the positive aspects of Irish agriculture and food production need to be prioritised and must play their part if humanity is to sustain itself". World Food Day, held every year on the anniversary of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, aims to highlight issues surrounding hunger and poverty in the developing world.

Referring to the recent report of the Irish Hunger Task Force, Minister Sargent reiterated the Irish Government's commitment to take a leadership role internationally in eliminating hunger, specifically through "increasing smallholder sustainable agricultural productivity in Africa, targeting maternal and infant under-nutrition and working to ensure that governments internationally fulfil their commitments to eradicate hunger". He also acknowledged that "Achieving Food Security in times of Crises and Climate Change", which is the theme for this years World Food Day, is also central to addressing the scourge of hunger internationally.  He noted the increase in the number of chronically hungry people on the planet which now stands at over 1 Billion or one person in every six.

Given our increasingly urbanised global society, Minister Sargent stressed that "we need to consider where our food comes from and our joint responsibility to achieve food security. Even in a developed country like Ireland, it is incumbent on us to consider our own food security and, furthermore, how our natural advantages and expertise in food production can be leveraged to assist in meeting long-term increased global demand".

He went on to state that climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity and it is imperative that "ambitious, legally enforceable, long-term global provisions to protect the planet are put in place".  Ireland also has to play its part in this process and, in this regard, Minister Sargent concluded by highlighting some of the important climate change elements contained in the Renewed Programme for Government ratified last weekend.

Note for Editors:

World Food Day is a global initiative lead by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. It was started in 1980 and is held in countries throughout the world around October 16th. (This is the date on which the FAO was established in 1945). The aim of World Food Day is to raise awareness about hunger and poverty in the developing world. Every year a different theme is selected for World Food Day. This year's theme is 'Achieving food security in times of crises and climate change'

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations was founded in 1945 with a mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to better the conditions of rural populations. Since its inception, FAO has worked to alleviate poverty and hunger by promoting agricultural development, improved nutrition and the pursuit of food security. FAO is one of the largest specialised agencies in the United Nations system and the lead agency for agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development.

Date Released: 16 October 2009