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UN Task Force Seeks Solutions to Global Food Crisis


A senior U.N. official says a new task force set up to tackle the global food crisis hopes to have a comprehensive, integrated action plan produced in short order. The official says key agencies such as the World Bank, World Food Program, and World Trade Organization will work to resolve problems such as food insecurity, agricultural production, climate change, bio-fuels and trade. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

About 100 million people in the world are going hungry because they cannot afford food.

But U.N. task force coordinator John Holmes says solutions can be found and new opportunities can be created.

He says world demand for food exceeds supply and this has to be corrected. He says there is recognition that investment in agriculture in developing countries has been neglected for a very long time.

"I think most of the studies show that if you can increase the profitability of agriculture and yields of agriculture in developing countries, this is an excellent way of tackling poverty so the development gains from this could be very considerable," Holmes said. "Let us face this, most people in the world live in rural communities where agriculture is absolutely fundamental. So, I think there is a very good opportunity there to correct that in a sustainable way."

Holmes says the task force will look at many issues, including agricultural subsidies, which he says distort trade and cause food prices to rise. He says the question of bio-fuels and how they play into the crisis will be addressed, as well as the need to explore new technologies in food production, such as genetically modified crops.

He says it will not be possible to come up with a comprehensive action plan for tackling the global food crisis overnight. But he says it is possible to have something on the table for early June, when world leaders hold a food summit in Rome.

"I think it is a pretty ambitious target to produce such a plan in the next four weeks by the time of that June meeting," he said. "I repeat that does not mean nothing is happening in the meantime. All the emergency responses we are talking about in the usual way will be happening and action will be taken, I think, also to try and make sure that the agricultural imports needed for particularly farmers in the developing world to stimulate their production for this year's harvest will be taken. What we are trying to do is draw it all together into a package which makes sense and which everybody can rally around."

Holmes says soaring food prices can become a matter of life and death and increased suffering and malnutrition for the tens of millions of people who live on $1 a day.

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