Food Summit Keys On Biofuels

World leaders overcame disputes over biofuels and other concerns to counter hunger and soaring food prices.

Delegates from 181 nations at a United Nations (UN)-sponsored Food Security Summit in Rome closed a three-day meeting with promises to push the UN’s 12-year-old pledge to halve the number of malnourished people, now 860 million, by 2015 and help farmers from developing countries produce for international markets.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world needed to invest as much as $20 billion a year on agriculture to tackle a 60 percent rise in food prices over the past 18 months that has sparked riots in more than 30 countries. During the conference 13 countries pledged $5.8 billion in additional aid.

Debate over biofuels was the focus of the much of the discord, resulting in a compromise in the declaration that dropped calls for more controls. The U.S. is the world’s biggest producer of ethanol from corn, and Brazil, the top maker of the fuel from sugarcane. The U.S. and the European Union have pledged to expand biofuel production to combat global warming and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

The Washington-based International Food Policy Research has said that the diversion of land to the cultivation of crops for ethanol production has contributed about 30 percent of the rise in food prices. The U.S. has put the figure at less than 3 percent.

Biofuel use must be sustainable and take into account the need to achieve global food security, the summit statement says. The U.S. is `”satisfied’” with the final language on biofuels agreed to by delegates at the UN-sponsored World Food Summit, says Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer.

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