Obama announces global food initiative

President Barack Obama speaks at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Friday, May 18, 2012, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

President Barack Obama speaks at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Friday, May 18, 2012, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
(CBS News) Stressing a shared set of global imperatives, President Obama on Friday unveiled a new food initiative aimed at increasing food security in developing African nations and lifting 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade.

Mr. Obama, in remarks kicking off this weekend's G-8 summit, called on G-8 partners to reaffirm their commitments to anti-poverty measures and outlined a plan aimed at increasing investments in African agriculture, developing agricultural innovations, and reducing risks among vulnerable communities.

"The government cannot and should not do this alone. This has to be all hands on deck," Mr. Obama said of the goal to reduce global poverty.

"Reducing malnutrition and hunger around the world advances international peace and security," the president said.

The initiative, called the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, aims to build on a 2009 food security effort that resulted in $22 billion worth of pledges, and stresses the need for a shared commitment among African nations, private sector partners, and members of the G-8.

"As the wealthiest nation on earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition," said Mr. Obama.

"We have a self-interest in this," he added. "It's a moral imperative, it's an economic imperative, and it's a security imperative."

According to Mr. Obama, about 45 private sector companies from around the world have pledged to invest more than $3 billion cumulatively to kick off the effort.

Mr. Obama outlined the initiative's goals to support innovation in the global agricultural research system, fast-track new agricultural projects, and speed up the development and delivery of innovation. It will also promote risk management to help communities avoid catastrophe in the face of instability.

"Communities can't go back just to the way things were - vulnerable as before, waiting for the next crisis to happen," Mr. Obama said. "A change in prices or a single bad season should not plunge a family, community or a region into crisis."

The administration stresses that the plan would not eliminate foreign aid but rather aim to boost its impact.

"It's not about replacing aid; it's about combining aid with private capital, tools to scale innovation and strategies for managing risk," said Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs, in a conference call on Thursday.

Mr. Obama on Thursday acknowledged the challenges ahead, but emphasized that "we are already making progress in this area."

"We can do this. We're already doing it. We just need to bring it all together," he said. "We can unleash the change that reduces hunger and malnutrition. We can spark the kind of economic growth that lifts people and nations out of poverty. This is the new commitment that we're making."

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