Brazil's 'Zero Hunger' program helps country become leader in food security in Latin America, director of FAO's North American office says; 9% of total population of Latin America, Caribbean chronically malnourished, down from 12% in 1990

NEW YORK , December 2, 2011 (press release) – “The public and private sector must work together” was the recurring theme of this morning’s program on ‘Food Securities in Latin America: Trends and Prospects’, organized by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, Inc. and the Americas Society/Council of the Americas in New York City.

“Food security is an issue that has leapt to the head of the policy agenda,” explained Dr. Patrick Webb, Dean for Academic Affairs at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who moderated the exciting discussion. Dr. Webb commented that while the share of undernourished people in Latin America has continued to decrease overall, there is still much to be done to secure continued and greater success.

James B. French, Director of the Technical Cooperation at the Inter-American Institute for Inter-American Cooperation on Agriculture, provided a brief overview of IICA’s strategies and initiatives on food security. Citing the different performance of various countries within Latin America, he noted the extensive opportunities for learning across the region.

Daniel Gustafson, Director of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Liaison Office for North America, explained that 9% of the total population of Latin America and the Caribbean are chronically malnourished. While he acknowledged a fair improvement from the prior number of 12% in 1990, Dr. Gustafson warned that there is significant variation both across and within Latin American countries. He highlighted Brazil as a leader in the field of food security, citing the outstanding success of its Zero Hunger program, and explained that having Brazilian José Graziano da Silva elected as the new FAO Director-General was important and positive step for the future.

Offering a private sector perspective on the issue, Carl Hausmann, Managing Director of Global Government and Corporate Affairs at Bunge Limited, emphasized the importance of having all parties participate in the discussion on food security. He urged companies to play a more active role in the civil society debate, noting that, while investments in infrastructure will be critical to meet the future food and agricultural needs of the world, these investments must be made in synch with the public sector.

Wilson Newton de Mello Neto, Vice President of Corporate Affairs of Brasil Foods S.A., expressed his belief that Brazil, Argentina, and the United States will be the key places to produce food in the future. Brazil is critical in this mix because it has 20% of the available area to produce food, and 12% of the available water in the world is located within the country. Furthermore, unlike many other sectors, Mr. Mello does not see China as a competitor or threat in food production due to its lack of land, sun and water.

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