Pope Francis was speaking at the Second International Conference of Nutrition, where he addressed an audience of senior national policymakers, leaders of United Nations agencies and other intergovernmental organisations and civil society.
“The fight against hunger and malnutrition often encounters obstacles due to the pre-eminence of the market, which has reduced food to a commodity subject to speculation, including financial speculation,” Pope Francis said through an interpreter.
In a speech that touched on sustainable food systems, improving food distribution and aggressive trade policies on food, he urged nations to safeguard the right to food for all, speaking of it as a duty.
“Nowadays, people often speak about rights, and forget about duty,” he said.
Hunger must be policymakers’ primary inspiration
He spoke about a lack of solidarity to help the world’s hungry, saying that our societies are characterised by “mounting individualism”, but asserted that the right to food could only be guaranteed if we concern ourselves with helping the hungry.
“Interest in the production and availability of foodstuffs, climate change, and agricultural trade must certainly inspire rules and technical means, but the primary inspiration must be the self-same person, those who do not have adequate access to food,” he said.
“…The earth doesn’t forgive anything, so take care of Mother Earth, so it does not respond with destruction.”
Food is ‘susceptible to corruption’
Referring to access to food, he said: “There are very few themes that are as susceptible to being manipulated by data, by statistics, by the requirements of national security, by corruption, or by the plaintive complaint of the economic crisis.”
Pope Francis said that Pope John Paul II warned at a similar conference in Rome in 1992 about the paradox of food – its availability in excess in some parts of the world, while others remained hungry or malnourished.
“Waste and discards and excessive consumption, and the use of food for other ends, continues right before our eyes,” Pope Francis said.
This is not the first time the Pope has spoken about food waste. In June last year he criticised a ‘despicable’ culture of food waste, saying that throwing away food was like stealing from the poor.
For Twitter reaction from the conference, click here.