World leaders are gathered in Rome for a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization summit to to address soaring food prices, which have caused riots and increased starvation in poorer parts of the world. (BBC News) Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are both attending, amid widespread criticism. Neither was invited to the opening official dinner. (Reuters)
What the commentators said
This summit is “a critical test of whether a collective global leadership can push big reforms in how the world feeds itself,” said The Christian Science Monitor in an editorial. The U.S. helped lead a burst in farm producitivity in the 1960s and ‘70s, but Washington is too preoccupied with domestic concerns to spearhead the response to the nearly 70-percent spike in prices for grains over the last two years. Nothing short of another, global “green revolution” will boost crop yields enough to make food affordable despite booming demand, soaring fuel prices, and the diversion of food crops to make ethanol.
The era of “cheap food” is gone forever, said the London Independent in an editorial. And it will take decades to figure out how to deal with that uncomfortable fact. “But the delegates in Rome must turn their attention, before anything else, to ensuring that the global poor do not starve today.” That means another $500m to fill a shortfall so the U.N. World Food Program can feed people who are hungry today, and then “heavy international investment in developing world agriculture” to help poor countries feed themselves.
Good luck launching a united global effort to address the food crisis with the likes of Mugabe at the table, said Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post. Mugabe “has beaten and murdered his political opponents in Zimbabwe so blatantly that even the Europeans noticed.” His mere presence in Rome reveals the ineffectiveness of international institutions more clearly than “someone standing atop the dome of St. Peter's, megaphone in hand, shouting, ‘The U.N. is useless!’”