Food and agriculture chief seeks to forge partnerships

The newly elected head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Monday said he would utilize the democratic success of his selection to forge agreements to help overcome differences among member states.

José Graziano da Silva, of Brazil also told a press conference in Rome that he believed food prices would remain volatile for some time and that the Food and Agriculture Organization would work more closely with the U.N. World Food Programme in the effort to overcome hunger.

Graziano da Silva received 92 votes from 180 votes cast by member states during the second round of balloting, defeating Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaube, a former foreign minister of Spain. He will succeed Jacques Diouf, who has served as director general since 1994.

Asked about alleged divisions between donor and recipient countries, Graziano da Silva said: “The whole issue of division became clearer in the course of the election process. Not only does it have an effect on elections, it is something that is part of the daily life in FAO.

“There are divergences, differences of views which are profound which are not to be swept away, which cannot be ignored.

“We have to work on… a minimum consensus around these issues so we don’t lose ourselves and render this organization paralytic over divisions.”

He described his own election as a democratic success and said that “in the same way I hope I can forge those same types of agreements about a minimum number of issues which will enable FAO to move forward most rapidly.”

Graziano da Silva said one of the very first actions he undertook after his election was to speak with Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the World Food Programme, “to set a common agenda.”

“We agreed a much more close relationship will be necessary between FAO and the World Food Programme to fit the expectations that the world has now for better food security governance.”

For her part Ms. Sheeran issued a press statement welcoming Graziano da Silva’s election, saying: “The World Food Programme is working closely and collaboratively with the FAO, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development to address immediate hunger needs in emergencies, and to support long-term sustainable solutions to hunger.”

During his press conference Graziano da Silva also said that biofuels were not “a silver bullet,” but should not be demonized; the science of genetically modifying crops should not be discarded, but there should be no monopoly on seed sales; land grabs are important in theory, but their impacts so far are “minimal;” and food prices are liable to continue being volatile.

“Until we get a more stable financial situation worldwide, commodities will reflect that,” he said.

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