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Italian Minister to G8:
`Let's Throw Finance Out of Agriculture'

April 17, 2009 (EIRNS)—In an interview with the Italian daily Libero, which has been posted both in Italian and English on the Libero website, Italian Agricultural Minister Luca Zaia announced the agenda of the first "Agricultural G8," which will start April 18 in Cison di Valmarino (Treviso), Italy. The headline of the interview with Minister Zaia states: "We should immediately ban financial instruments which promote speculation and starve people. Time to double global food production."

The complete text of the interview follows.

Produce more, speculate less; actually, don't speculate at all. "I will propose banning all financial instruments which involve speculation on agricultural products," says a feisty Luca Zaia, who is preparing for the G8 Agricultural Summit in Cison di Valmarino. "The truth is that speculation makes people starve," says the Minister of Agriculture.

Libero: Minister, among the priorities of the G8 Summit...

Minister Zaia: "is the fight against hunger in the world. Close to a billion people suffer from hunger. Three million children die from hunger every year. The situation is intolerable."

Libero: Isn't it a bit of a contradiction to discuss this issue without anyone from Africa?

Zaia: "The emerging economies gathered in the G5 will be present [this includes South Africa—ed.], and Egypt will be there; along with bodies such as the FAO and the World Bank. I'm not against anyone participating. What's important is that we deal with the problem."

Libero: How can it be dealt with?

Zaia: "First of all, as I said before, we have to clip the speculators' claws. The fact that people get rich off other people going hungry is unthinkable."

Libero: Is there a risk that this issue, which was very hot last summer when food prices were sky-high, has cooled down now, to the point that it will be more difficult to agree on a tough line?

Zaia: "I don't think so, and in any case, we will present our case. With this first G8 Summit dedicated to the question of agriculture, Italy confirms its role as a global trailblazer."

Libero: What else can and must be done to fight hunger?

Zaia: "Agricultural production must be increased in emerging countries. It must be doubled. Water plays a key role: We need to provide water where it's lacking. Productivity is increased through investment in infrastructure."

Libero: Couldn't Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs) help, by allowing certain types of crops to be adapted to difficult areas?

Zaia: "I don't think so. This seems to be one of the pretexts which would allow the multinational corporations to have free reign. GMOs are not the answer to hunger in the world."

Libero: Emerging countries often request that tariffs on their exports be lowered

Zaia: "I don't agree on this point. The example of the reduction of tariffs on rice at the WTO is an example. We opposed it, rightly, because the measure would have eliminated domestic production. We need to find a balance; we can't harm our farmers. It's no coincidence that another issue to be discussed at the Summit is the safeguarding of the identity of agricultural production."

Libero: What does that mean?

Zaia: "It means that behind every local product there is a history, which must be safeguarded and promoted. I am aware that countries which don't have a true agricultural character are bothered by the defense of typical, local products. But we're not going to let up on this point."

Libero: By reaffirming the alliance with France, possibly, which emerged during the reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy?

Zaia: "It's true that with Paris we agreed on the rejection of a widespread idea: the idea that the West should concentrate on hi-tech, and become an importer of agricultural products. France and Italy share the opinion that a solid economy requires a solid agricultural sector. Thus, the need to defend production and focus on farmers. It's no coincidence that this will be another issue on the agenda at the G8. Food is strategic. Lastly, to complete the picture, there is a final aspect that is closely linked to this."

Libero: What aspect?

Zaia: "Food security. This is an absolute priority for us; and, another reason to say no to imprudent liberalization, theorized by those who think that agriculture has no future in Europe. But some people think that only because, as I said before, their own country lacks an agricultural character."

Someone's ears must be burning on the other side of the Channel.