Food output must rise, UN warns
World leaders must make “significant changes” to prevent an increase in global hunger, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said. Mr Ban was speaking at the start of a UN conference in Rome aimed at stabilising food prices.
The World Summit on Food Security comes a year after major rises in food prices caused chaos across the globe. The UN says one billion people are already hungry and food production must increase to feed a growing population.
“The food crisis of today is a wake-up call for tomorrow,” said Mr Ban. “By 2050, our planet may be the home of 9.1 billion people. By 2050 we know we will need to grow 70% more food, yet weather is becoming more extreme and more unpredictable,” the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.
“We must make significant changes to feed ourselves, and most especially to safeguard the poorest and most vulnerable.” Critics say the summit may fail to set ambitious goals and point out that leaders of the richest nations will not be there.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is the only leader from one of the G8 leading industrialised countries to take part. Pope Benedict XVI will also address the delegates. Francisco Sarmento, of campaign group ActionAid, told AFP the absence of other G8 leaders “doesn’t signal they are serious about finding global solutions to hunger”.
The BBC’s David Loyn in Rome says the leaders attending the summit will try to keep the world focussed on the consequences of the massive rise in food prices last year, which hit the world’s poorest the hardest.
It will also encourage poor countries to end their reliance on food aid by producing enough to feed their own people. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that if more land is not used for food production now, 370 million people could be facing famine by 2050.
Mr Ban and FAO head Jacques Diouf both staged symbolic 24-hour fasts in preparation for the summit. Mr Diouf has said the “silent hunger crisis – affecting one sixth of all of humanity – poses a serious risk for world peace and security”.
In comments before the summit, he said the leaders “urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world”.