For rich nations, words far cheaper than food; if only the poor could eat them – Opinion

The marvel of 21st century science is that it seems to have almost no limit other than stilted imaginations.

The physical mysteries of life are revealed through genome mapping.

A rocket is crashed into the moon and water is discovered.

The laboratory has become nature-in-a-hurry, making discoveries that would have been science fiction a generation ago.

Now, if those brainiacs could just create a way to embed calories into empty rhetoric, the world’s billion hungry people would find their bellies growing from nutrition.

Sixteen months ago, in the midst of soaring food prices that were driving millions more citizens of the world into hunger, representatives of nearly 200 countries that are members of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization gathered in Rome to pledge to do something.

FAO director-general Jacques Diouf lectured them. He argued that the widespread hunger of 2007-08 was “disaster foretold,” The Western Producer reported from the 2008 world hunger summit.

Twelve years ago “in this very chamber,” delegates pledged to halve hunger by 2015, he said. By 2002, the number of hungry was rising so another summit recommitted. Yet investment in agriculture continued to decline, he said.

They gathered again only after “media thrust the painful spectacle of suffering into the homes of the wealthy countries. It was only when the destitute and those excluded from the abundant tables of the rich took to the streets to voice their discontent and despair that the first reactions in support of food aid began to emerge.”

Once again, there were solemn promises of a real attack on the blight of hunger in a world awash in food.

Sixteen months later? The world economic crisis has added tens of millions to the hunger rolls, which now top a record one billion.

So last week, they were at it again.

FAO called a world food summit. Delegates unanimously approved a declaration “pledging renewed commitment to eradicate hunger from the face of the earth sustainably and at the earliest date.”

This time, Diouf put a price tag on it. “Eliminating hunger from the face of the earth requires $44 billion US of official development assistance to be invested in infrastructure, technology and modern inputs.”

For perspective, the annual expenditure on military is $1.34 trillion.

After the dinners and speeches, delegates headed home, presumably pumped by their new commitment to rid the world of a shameful situation that results from political indifference rather than lack of resources.

This time will be different! Even Pope Benedict XVI got involved, praising them for their resolve.

“God bless your efforts to ensure that all people are given their daily bread,” he said.

Back on the ground, the chronically hungry almost certainly were not glued to their radios cheering the dawn of a new, food-plentiful day.

They were lining up for food aid or scrounging for scraps or dying.

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