In a video message to the session, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown appealed for "greater priority and long-term attention to the underlying problems of poverty and hunger facing some 850 million people."
Brown urged rich countries to "stop undermining the livelihoods of the poorest through agricultural subsidies and dumping."
"It is unacceptable that rich countries still subsidize farming by one billion U.S. dollars a day, costing poor farmers in developing countries an estimated 100 billion dollars a year in lost income," he said. "We must go further in our reform of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and U.S. farm bill," he added.
ECOSOC President Leo Merores told the meeting that the world has the necessary knowledge and expertise to fight the current food crisis but it needs to muster the political will and the resources to ensure there is a lasting solution for the millions of people now suffering.
"The time to act is now," Merores said, stressing the need for both immediate action to meet humanitarian needs and for longer-term increased agricultural production.
"It is my view that agriculture has to be put back in the center of the development agenda," he said.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said the crisis is driving an estimated 100 million people or more into deep poverty, on top of the 830 million others already facing acute shortages of basic foods.
"That represents seven lost years in the global fight against poverty and hunger," she said, adding that the progress so far toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the set of eight anti-poverty targets which world leaders have agreed to work towards by 2015, could be virtually wiped out.
Stressing that much of the problem is man-made, Migiro urged policy-makers to carefully examine the many cases, including the increasing use of biofuels, especially those that are grain-based.
"We must increase investment in agriculture and food security. There is no choice about that," Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika told the meeting in a video message.
Mutharika urged international leaders to adjust their policies to the needs and national situations of developing countries while making decisions on agriculture.
Mutharika also urged rich countries to consider changing food aid policies or reorganizing food aid to involve massive investment in agricultural production
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