UN food summit ends in failure as delegates fudge final declaration

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Indy Politics

The UN's food crisis summit lurched to a messy end in Rome yesterday as brave hopes failed to translate into convincing commitments to tackle the soaring threat of world hunger.

A final declaration was only agreed after hours of bickering over the language. And the final text failed to disguise dramatic differences over the cause of price inflation and its cure.

The International Food Policy Research Institute, in testimony to the American Senate, has said biofuels are responsible for 30 per cent of the rise in food prices. But the summit's declaration, under pressure from the US, spoke only of the need "to address the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels" and to undertake "in-depth studies".

The declaration, like many speakers at the summit, paid lip service to devoting more attention to the unglamorous millions toiling in Africa and Asia. "Maintaining biodiversity" and support for "the world's smallholder farmers and fishers, including indigenous people, in particular in vulnerable areas" were among the aims agreed on.

But so was the commitment to "continue... efforts in liberalising international trade in agriculture by reducing trade barriers" – at a time when the forced opening of markets to food imports is blamed by many in the developing world for the destruction of indigenous farming.