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The voice of the Pope and the Church in dialogue with the World


World News \ Oceania & Pacific

Australia calls for pragmatic approach to poverty and hunger

A farmer with ears of wheat that have suffered from too much moisture - REUTERS

A farmer with ears of wheat that have suffered from too much moisture - REUTERS

05/07/2017 15:50

(Vatican Radio) The UN’s Food and Agriciulture Organisation is holding its 40th plenary conference in Rome this week, focusing on issues around “Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security”.

In a message sent to the July 3rd to 8th meeting, Pope Francis highlighted the right of every individual to be free from poverty and hunger. He said there is an urgent need for solidarity to be the criterion inspiring all forms of cooperation in international relations.

Among those attending the conference was Australia's deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, who also serves as minister for agriculture and water resources. He told Philippa Hitchen more about the message he was bringing to this important international gathering…


Barnaby Joyce says his message is “one of pragmatism and understanding the mathematics of the equation that we have to solve, that in the next 50 years the world will consume as much food as it has in human history to this point”.

If you are “too philosophically pure”, he continues, the result of that will be that "other people in other parts of the world will starve to death. If I take rice out of production, or don't produce enough rice, it’s not the people in Europe or America or Australia who starve” but  “someone in north Africa who'll starve to death”.

Climate change

Climate change, the deputy prime minister says, is “very interesting and very important, but it doesn't answer the question of how I’m going to produce food right now”. Australia has signed up to international agreements, such as Paris, he says, adding that “we’re doing our bit and we’re ahead of the curve of where we have to be”.

But he insists that in the face of an increase in the number of hungry people in the world, it’s essential to “have those pragmatic, realistic, scientific approaches to how were going to splice a new photosynthesis gene into wheat, so we get a better utilization of light, so you can get a better production outcome, [and] maybe while we’re doing it, we can have nitrate fixating genes in there, so you can actually fertilise your field as you grow from it – these things are all possible”.

Treatment of refugees

On the question of migration, Barnaby Joyce notes that “Australia remains either the first, second or third most generous country on earth, per capita, in the acceptance of refugees, and we’re proud of that”. But, he adds, “we have to do it on the terms that are politically saleable and you can’t do it if people are just making their own arrangements and arriving in the country”.

05/07/2017 15:50