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FAO Director-General highlights need for food security in region

posted on 17/03/2015: 2335 views

ABU DHABI, 17th March, 2015 (WAM) -- Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, Director-General, Jose Graziano Da Silva, has highlighted the critical role played by the media in spreading awareness of healthy food practices in order to achieve human well-being, to audiences across the Gulf region.

In an interview with WAM on the occasion of the signing of a joint partnership agreement, the FAO Director-General said, "It is important to start thinking ahead on how we can secure the future. We are talking about 2030 or 2050, we don't know what will happen then so we must be prepared and look for new ways, systems, and areas for sustainability.

"Entering into this agreement is an effort to increase awareness of the role that healthy food plays in achieving human well-being in audiences across the Gulf region, in both Arabic and the English language," he added.

The Director-General also said, "As we transition from fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, MDG's, with issues like reducing poverty and hunger, and improving women rights, to a more ambitious stage with the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG's, of eradicating hunger and poverty, and increasing sustainability, the FAO is trying to reach out to more audiences around the world to help it in its missions.

"In the Gulf region, we have a problem with water, its salinity, and the issue of diminishing supply. Salinity has pulled down fish stocks, and yet there are much more people to feed. We need to also control energy savings in the region. We all know that present sources won't last long, and in the long run, fossil fuel will not be sustainable," explained Da Silva.

Another concern in the region is that of malnutrition, but in the form of obesity, said Da Silva, which is a priority for the FAO and which he hopes to raise awareness of. "Although there is no issue with hunger here, there is an issue with nutrition and food preservation, or food safety," he said.

"We have seen in the region, as the number of hungry people declines, obesity is on the rise," he said.

One of the reasons for this, he said, is the change in diet. For example, people are not eating enough healthy foods, such as the historical staple of dates and fish, anymore. "The consumption of high amounts of cereal, sugar, and salt are on the increase. These are the ingredients which promote bad nutrition, and we need to change that to a more diversified diet, a more natural-based diet instead of only consuming processed food. We need to promote the consumption of more fibre and vitamins, which are found in fruits and vegetables," said Da Silva.

Women are also suffering higher rates of obesity in the region, he explained, as a result of letting go of traditional living practices, such as preparing and consuming home-cooked meals.

He said, "As we increase the number of women working outside the house, we are increasing fast food consumption. We need to have more awareness of the risks attached, by, for example, clear labelling of nutrition facts on products, and educating children on healthy food."

He went on to say, "The other issue we are concerned about in this region is food security. We are all now urban societies, relying on imported food. If you don't have strict control of these imports, especially when they involve live animals, vegetables and so on, you can take the risk of spreading disease around the world. Therefore, these are two areas where the FAO is prepared to increase its support to the system in the region," he added.

The UAE and FAO have a 10 year mandate and framework for action, with the FAO working to promote healthy food and address the consequences of bad nutrition, which include various issues such as diabetes, heart attacks, and non-communicable diseases, which are on the increase.

In conclusion, the FAO Director-General said that another priority is the plan to revive local products and restore the popularity of consuming healthy foods which were a part of older diet habits. "We want to promote the foods people used to have, like dates, which have high nutritional benefits," he said.

As part of this plan, two date palm oases in the UAE have been recognised by the FAO for their importance as repositories of genetic resources, biodiversity and cultural heritage. "We have given the date palm an award which seeks to promote healthy foods, in recognition of the importance of dates in the diet of people in this region forever," he said. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –


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