Page last updated at 19:21 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 20:21 UK

UN warns on biofuel crop reliance


Ban Ki-Moon calls for a global response to tackle rising food costs

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has warned against investing too heavily in growing crops for biofuels at the expense of food production.

Mr Ban was speaking at a meeting of the UN's General Assembly called to discuss the global food and energy crisis.

He believes a wholesale shift in government resources towards farming is vital to prevent millions more from suffering malnutrition.

He said larger economies had to look at whether they had the balance right.

Biofuels are important for combating climate change, Mr Ban said, but new global guidelines needed to be established to maintain an adequate supply of food.

'Disastrous consequences'

"The cost of inaction would be unacceptably high. Over 100m people could slide into hunger," Mr Ban said.

"We must act immediately to boost agricultural production this year," he added.

"We do this by providing urgently needed seeds and fertilisers for the upcoming planting cycles, especially for the world's 450 million small-scale farmers."

The Secretary General stressed that individual governments should look again at the subsidy and tariff protection policies they have adopted for growing biofuels.

He warned that failure to tackle the issue now would have disastrous consequences, considering that by 2030 world demand for food was forecast to increase by 50%.

The BBC's Matthew Wells, at UN headquarters in New York, says these remarks are Mr Ban's strongest comments yet on an issue that is of major importance to many developing economies.

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