Former representative Tony P. Hall (D-Ohio) says his initial goals as a United Nations ambassador will be to promote bioengineered crops as a solution to famine, and to encourage European nations to increase food donations.
Hall, who left his House seat in September to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for food and agriculture agencies, said concerns overseas are unfounded that U.S. food donations are unsafe because of pesticides and genetic modification.
"It doesn't make sense," he said in an interview published Thursday in the Dayton Daily News. "You don't have this kind of argument [about food] when people are starving to death. And it's only going to get worse."
Droughts and floods in six southern African countries have left more than 14 million people on the brink of starvation, according to the United Nations.
Hall recently met with agriculture and social welfare officials in Zimbabwe, where more than half the population is in danger of starving to death. But tens of thousands of tons of U.S. crop donations sit undistributed in depots because authorities believe bioengineered food is poisoned.
"I said, 'You know, with your action, you're going to kill your people. You don't have any other food in this country,' " Hall said from his office in Rome.
Hall will travel to Brussels next week to share his concerns with European Union leaders, many of whom are openly critical of American agriculture.
Hall said Europeans grow mostly organic foods without pesticides or genetic modification. "It does taste good," Hall said. "The problem is, because it's so expensive, you can't buy enough of it and you can't grow enough of it to feed hungry people in the world."
The United States provides 50 percent of the world's donated food, and the rest of the world supplies the other 50 percent, Hall said. He will ask the European nations to increase their share.
Hall, 60, has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against hunger, and he went 22 days without food in 1993 to protest the loss of funding for a House committee devoted to the cause. He represented the Dayton area's 3rd District for 24 years.