Seed World

Lester Pearson and the FAO’s Special Connection to Canada

Lester Pearson presiding at a plenary session of the founding conference of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization in October 1945.

Today, Canada’s federal government held a live webcast to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“Today, our world is in the midst of a pandemic and it is more important than ever to continue a united front to strengthen global food security, helping vulnerable people around the world have access to the safe, nutritious food,” said Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

In 1945, at a Conference presided over by future Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson in Quebec City, the FAO was formally established as a specialized UN agency to lead international efforts in the fight against global hunger and poverty.

Today, the FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide, with a goal to achieve food security for all and to ensure people have access to safe, high-quality food. Canada has been a member since the beginning and is committed to working with the FAO to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Zero Hunger.

Bibeau noted that as part of Canada’s commitment to a secure and sustainable food system, the government announced on Oct. 17, 2019, the first-ever food policy for Canada. The food policy is a roadmap for a healthier and more sustainable food system in Canada — one that builds on the government’s agenda to support the growth of Canada’s farmers and food businesses, while supporting the demand for healthy, safe food at home and abroad.

This policy is one of building blocks that complements the FAO’s vision for a global food system that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable,” she noted.

Born in the wake of catastrophe at the end of the Second World War, three-quarters of a century later, the FAO’s mission to end hunger and nourish the world has been made more relevant because of another global scourge — the COVID-19 pandemic, said QU Dongyu, FAO director-general.

Along the way, the world, and with it FAO, went from growing more food, to getting attuned to its environmental footprints, setting up regulatory frameworks in response, getting animal diseases under control, and, finally, seeing the fight against hunger as inseparable from other development goals.

“The present moment is again fraught with danger, complicated, and demands urgent action. As hunger grows once more, as the COVID-19 pandemic exposes the fragility of our food systems, history is calling upon us once more to rise to the challenge,” said Qu.