A UN official said that malnutrition is a much bigger problem than food safety in China. The country must act to fight domestic and world hunger, Oriental Outlook Magazine reported in its latest issue.
"In China today, nearly 10 percent of the population do not have enough food to eat and are in a state of hunger, while 30 percent of Chinese are obese," said Breton Hughes Rierson, head of the Mission for China office under the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP).
His comments came at the "Business and Charity Forum" in Hangzhou on August 26 2013.
According to a 2012 report by Obesity Reviews, a monthly journal published by the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 12 percent of Chinese children are overweight. Liang Xiaofeng, the Deputy Director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed in August 2012 that there are 120 million overweight Chinese under the age of 18.
However, in remote areas of China, children do not have much to eat except cold potatoes and under-nutrition has caused serious growth impediments.
But regarding reducing hunger and poverty, Rierson said China has made great progress, and he is optimistic that China can be self-sufficient in food.
Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) wrote in his article "Lessons from China's Success in Reducing Hunger," published in Xinhuanet on June 3, that China has saved almost 100 million people from hunger, a reduction of 37.6 percent over the past two decades. That puts China on track to achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty and hunger by 2015.
The WFP is based in Rome. It was formally established in 1963 by the FAO and the United Nations General Assembly, and it has become the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. China joined the WFP in 1979.
"In 1979, one third of China's population suffered from hunger. This has been reduced to less than 10 percent, which is lower than in the United States. This is incredible," Rierson said.
Rierson believes China can be self-sufficient in grain. The Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Social Sciences Documentation Publishing House jointly issued a rural green paper in April, predicting that China’s grain output will continue to increase, reaching 600 million tons in 2013.
However, the wide use of fertilizer and pesticides has deteriorated water and soil qualities, and according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, more than 10 percent of China’s farmlands are polluted with heavy metal.
But Rierson still has faith. "I don't think there's a problem. Urbanization, water and soil loss will definitely affect grain production. But the Chinese government has realized the problem and started doing something"
China has gradually moved from a global aid receiver to a donor. The latest data shows that there are now 868 million people in the world living in hunger and poverty, 132 million less than in 1992.
"The WFP will continue to work with the Chinese government to raise the remaining less than 10 percent of population out of hunger. We will also help the Chinese government focus on nutrition, reduce poverty, and improve China's international reputation." Rierson said.
On Dec. 15 2005, the WFP announced that it was ending food aid to China, which lasted for 26 years. Aid totaled nearly US$1 billion and benefitted around 30 million people. To date, China has lifted more than 300 million people out of poverty.
In a 2006 annual report published by the WFP, China emerged as the world’s third largest food aid donor in 2005, according to the organization's annual Food Aid Monitor. Donations from China totaled 577,000 metric tons and the country accounted for more than half of the rise in overall food aid donations in 2005, with a 260 percent increase on the previous year.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, China also donated US$2.5 million, to the WFP every year from 2009 to 2011. In 2013, its contribution will increase to US$5million.
The WFP also announced that China has donated US$16 million in 2011 to help the agency's famine relief operation in Somalia, which is the nation's largest single donation.