Bob Geldof has launched an attack on drinks giant PepsiCo at an international summit in Belfast addressing the global food shortage, saying it makes him “puke”.
The activist and rock star was applauded loudly at the One Young World event on Tuesday when he criticised comments by the previous speakers representing the PepsiCo Foundation, who spoke about their work promoting economic opportunities for women farmers.
Addressing the audience, the Live Aid organiser described the scale of the food crisis as a “pandemic in silence” and called for a “renaissance of thought” to tackle it.
“When I listen to some of these giant companies talking b*****ks on this stage, it makes me puke,” he said.
“I can’t stand the bullishness of PepsiCo, who are not a food company. They make a nice drink – I love it; thanks very much. But please, spare me the 60 million plastic bottles every year. Spare me the nonsense about it being a food company. Doritos aren’t food, they’re just a way to channel ultra high-processed food,” he added, referring to the snack made by PepsiCo and mentioned in the previous speech.
More than 2,000 young people from 190 countries travelled to Belfast for the four-day summit to discuss how to accelerate social impact on issues from climate change and education to mental health.
Former Irish president Mary Robinson, British-Iranian journalist and author Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Queen Rania of Jordan, Rugby World Cup winner Francois Pienaar and former Premier League footballer Rio Ferdinand were among those taking part in the event.
Geldof, who celebrates his 72nd birthday on Thursday, co-wrote the Band Aid single Do They Know It’s Christmas in 1984 after being moved by a BBC report on the Ethiopian famine, raising £8 million for famine relief within a year.
He told delegates he had spent “every single day of my life since 1984” working with the Band Aid trust to “do what we can to fight the vast, unnecessary harm that is hunger”.
The Boomtown Rats singer drew comparisons between the Irish famine and what he witnessed in Africa.
“I saw no difference between my fellow countrymen of the past and the Africans I saw dying of hunger in my present,” he said.
“Ireland was an abyss. It barely was a country, it was a void. The Irish had to start again. What hunger does, it destroys and empties your countries.
“It’s taken my whole life for my country to re-establish itself to be a dynamic, young, cultured progressive state open to the world and its peoples again.
“From literally nothing in my childhood to an economy that’s now the fastest growing in the European Union based on technology, biopharma and yes, agriculture; a 21st-century economy because everything else was gone.”
With more than 820 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment, the delegates were told that over 50 per cent more food will need to be produced by 2050 due to population growth.
“We are asking of the planet more than we have to give,” Geldof said.
“So what do we do? For decades, I’ve attended all the conferences and spoken at most, I have heard more or less the same thing. I would love today to hear something different.
“Is it not the core task of One Young World to think together, devise new methods, new thought, just new ways of doing things? Because it’s not as simple as just producing more food. Our methods of production, distribution and consumption need a renaissance of thought and innovation.”