Starving in Guatemala: issues are at top of food conference agenda


'There are a billion people in the world who can't buy enough food'

High food prices. Trouble getting credit. Crop failures. Some of the important reasons underlying the current food crisis in Guatemala - where more than 50,000 families don't have enough to eat and women and children in particular are today struggling to survive - are at the top of the agenda of McGill University's second annual Global Food Security Conference, Oct. 5-7, in Montreal.

The conference, focusing primarily on the effects the recent global economic crisis has had on the world's supply and availability of nutritious food, will draw experts from a wide variety of perspectives from around the world. These key leaders in research, government, aid agencies, international bodies and industry will gather for a vital exchange of views and information.

"The financial crisis has put more people into hunger and poverty," said Chandra Madramootoo, Dean of McGill's Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "There are a billion people in the world who don't have the buying power to purchase food products. Although commodity prices have dropped, processed food prices have remained high - and the economic crisis has played a role in that, too."

The conference will push governments to take more responsibility for addressing issues of hunger and malnutrition around the world, urge a reversal of the steady decline in funding for agricultural research and search for examples of local interventions that might be possible in regions ravaged by drought or crop failure. The development of better early-warning systems to signal looming crises is also a priority.

What makes the McGill conference so valuable, Madramootoo said, is its broad array of experts brought together to share their knowledge and experience on a global scale. It's a unique event.

"I don't see anyone else out there doing it," he said.

McGill University, founded in Montreal, Que., in 1821, is Canada's leading post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 10 professional schools, 300 programs of study and more than 34,000 students. McGill attracts students from more than 150 countries around the world. Almost half of McGill students claim a first language other than English - including 6,000 francophones - with more than 6,400 international students making up almost 20 per cent of the student body.

For a list of conference participants and its program, please visit

For media registration, please visit and download the registration form.

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