FAO releases 'State of Food' report
the FAO said on September 11 in a special section of its annual
report, The State of Food and Agriculture 2001.
Economic growth can be positively influenced by improved nutrition, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on September 11 in a special section of its annual report, The State of Food and Agriculture 2001 (SOFA 2001). According to the reports, raising the per-capita calorie intake to 2770 calories per day in countries where it is below that level could increase the per capita GDP growth in those countries by between 0.34 and 1.48 percentage points per year. SOFA 2001 is released two months before world leaders gather at the World Food Summit held from 5-9 November. Government officials, NGOs and other civil society organisations will work out ways to reduce the number of hungry people in the world so that their number may be cut from approximately 820 million who were hungry in 1996 to no more than half that amount by 2015. While the consequences of an inadequate diet are not always visible, according to FAO, "under-nourishment leads to a lower nutritional status, or under-nutrition, to which the body adjusts by slowing down its physical activity and, in the case of children, growth." According to the report, "An estimated 740 million people suffer from disorders related to iodine deficiency, including mental retardation, delayed motor development and stunting. About 2 billion people are anaemic, mainly as a result of iron deficiency. Iron deficiency, the most common micronutrient disorder, reduces physical productivity as well as having a negative impact on children's cognitive skills." In addition, between 100 million and 140 million children suffer from vitamin A deficiency. "Better nutrition leads to increased human capital and labour productivity through the channels of improved health and education, which in turn results in improved household and nation welfare, i.e. economic growth. Improved nutrition affects economic growth directly through its impact on labour productivity and indirectly through improvements in life expectancy," says the report. The FAO urges "targeted action against maternal and infant malnutrition," which should always accompany investment in health, education and sanitation. According to the report, the biggest impact comes from improvements in the health of women, because this not only benefits families and communities today, but will also have a major impact on the health and productivity of the next generation. In a chapter on 'Economic Impacts of Transboundary Plant Pests and Animal Diseases,' the FAO warns that the spread of emergent diseases and invasive species has increased dramatically in recent years. Increased trans-boundary movements of goods and people, trade liberalisation, increased concerns about food safety and the environment have heightened the need for international cooperation in controlling and managing trans-boundary pests and diseases. In many countries, there is a trend towards increased intensification and commercialisation of livestock production. A higher concentration of animals provides greater opportunity for animal diseases and other infections to spread rapidly and cause economic losses, FAO says. The FAO calls for increased regional and international cooperation. Developing countries should receive assistance "because not all countries can face the cost of prevention and reaction alone." SOFA 2001 also contains a section about negotiations on international agricultural trade, which were launched within the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The complexity of import regimes and the cost of complying with sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards and technical barriers to trade can be insurmountable obstacles, particularly for small developing countries. It is important that a new round of agricultural trade negotiations leads to greater opportunities for developing countries to participate in international agricultural trade, says FAO.