Fao (Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations) (Encyclopedia of Food & Culture)
FAO (FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations traces its origin to the foundation of the International Agriculture Institute in 1905 under the pioneering work of David Lubin. This institute, which preceded FAO, consisted of forty member nations and sponsored the first World Agriculture Census in 1930, a census which has been undertaken every ten years since that time and which has become one of the responsibilities of FAO since 1950.
The Food and Agriculture Organization was born out of the Hot Springs Conference held by forty-four nations at the Homestead Hotel, Hot Springs, Virginia, in May and June of 1943. It was established as an agency of the United Nations on 16 October 1945 to assume the work of the International Agriculture Institute and is presently governed by the U.N. Conference of Member Nations. The Conference convenes every two years to review the work carried out by the organization and to approve its programs and budget for the next biennium. The director-general of FAO serves a six-year term. In addition to its headquarters in Rome, FAO maintains five regional offices (Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific, the Near East, and Europe), five sub-regional offices, five liaison offices, and over seventy-eight country offices. The purpose of the organization is to serve as a neutral forum for all members of the United Nations through numerous international programs and initiatives. Due to this political neutrality, FAO has been able to act as a conduit for the completion of hundreds of international agreements covering food and agricultural matters.
One of FAO's activities involves the development of international codes and norms, such as the standards established for food processing in connection with Codex Alimentarius and the related conventions negotiated by the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission and the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). In a similar manner, FAO's Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES) has provided the international framework for dealing with such agricultural plagues as the desert locust.
Another area of FAO activity is the gathering and dissemination of information on food and agriculture by means of databases organized under the umbrella of the World Agriculture Information Centre (WAICENT) in Rome. The center provides information to governments, research institutes, and universities, as well as to private individuals, using a wide range of media. This includes databases on soils and terrain (SOTER), information on soil and climate requirements for more than 1,700 plant species, domestic animal diversity information, lists of mutant plant varieties, a seed information system (SIS), a feed and forage database, a fertilizer yearbook, nutritional profiles of U.N. member countries, and vast amounts of material on food crops and crop shortages. FAO is also the world center for information on fisheries, aquaculture, and forestry.
The Food and Agriculture Organization has also become deeply involved in fighting world hunger and poverty by developing special programs for food security. This has involved a commitment to sustainable agriculture and rural development, the establishment of food cooperatives, seed saving programs at the small-farm level, land conservation, and an environmental agenda designed to better manage natural resources. FAO has taken this campaign to the public through its World Food Day programs in mid-October of each year. In 1997, FAO launched Telefood, a series of concerts and broadcasts designed to raise money for specific programs dealing with hunger and poverty. Money from these events, which are held in different places throughout the world each year, have funded over eight hundred small community-based projects in rural areas of such countries as Bangladesh, Somalia, Nepal, and Uganda.
See also Aquaculture; Codex Alimentarius; Food Supply, Food Shortages; Government Agencies; International Agencies; Political Economy; Sustainable Agriculture.
Food and Agriculture Organization. Dimensions of Need: An Atlas of Food and Agriculture. Rome: FAO, 1995.
Food and Agriculture Organization. Constitution of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Washington, D.C.: 1945.
Food and Agriculture Organization. FAO: The First 40 Years. Rome: FAO, 1985.
Food and Agriculture Organization. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. Rome: FAO, 2000.
Food and Agriculture Organization. The State of the World's Forests. Rome: FAO, 2001.
Loftas, Tony, ed. Reforming FAO into the New Millennium. Rome: FAO, 2000.
Phillips, Ralph. FAO: Its Origins, Formation and Evolution, 1945981. Rome: FAO, 1981.
William Woys Weaver