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U.N. sets up group to tackle global food crisis

/ Source: The Associated Press

The United Nations will set up a top-level task force to tackle the global food crisis, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.

Ban, who will lead the task force, said he agreed with U.N. agency chiefs on a series of measures for the medium and long term, with the first priority meeting the $755 million shortfall in funding for the World Food Program.

"We anticipate that additional funding will be required," he told reporters in the Swiss capital Bern where the U.N. agency chiefs have been meeting.

But he said more was needed to provide for future needs. "We must ensure food for tomorrow," he said.

Ban said there were a number of causes of the food crisis including climate change, long spells of drought, changing consumption patterns in major developing countries and the planting of crops for biofuel.

He said new measures had to go farther than just providing emergency food relief when crises hit unlike the previous global response.

Supporting farmers
The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization has developed a $1.7 billion plan to provide seeds for farmers in the world's poorest countries, he said.

"We must make every effort to support those farmers," Ban said.

Ban said he hoped world leaders would come to a June meeting in Rome to find ways to tackle the food crisis. He said the international community had previously not listened to warnings from the FAO and others.

"This time the whole United Nations is now leading this campaign to address this issue," he said.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick, who also attended the meeting, said 100 million people are estimated to have been pushed into poverty over the past two years.

"This is not a natural disaster," Zoellick said.

He said $475 million has already been pledged to WFP but more is needed.

"This crisis isn't over once the emergency needs are met," Zoellick said.

"The world can afford this," said Zoellick. "I think we've now got the attention of the world community."

He added, "We can't just replay this year after year after year."