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UN study urges farmers to cut fossil fuel use

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Jamey Keaten
Associated Press / April 16, 2008

PARIS - As riots erupt over food shortages in the Caribbean and Africa and hunger approaches crisis stage in parts of Asia, an international report said farmers worldwide must reduce dependency on fossil fuels and better protect the environment.

The report, three years in the making, was released yesterday at UNESCO headquarters in Paris as surging food prices fanned violence and exposed serious concerns about the global food supply in coming decades.

The report, known as the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, takes a broad look at farming in relation to hunger, poverty, the environment, and social equity.

"The IAASTD encourages us to take up what can be called a paradigm change. The status quo today is no longer an option," said Guilhem Calvo, an adviser with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's ecological and earth sciences division.

Citing the impact of oil prices on transportation and production of farm products, he said, "We must develop agriculture that is less dependent on fossil fuels, favors the use of locally available resources and base research efforts . . . on intensification of natural processes," like using natural fertilizers and protecting soil and water supply.

The World Bank and the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization commissioned 400 contributors, from scientists to businesspeople.

The report warned that large swaths of Asia and Africa are running out of water.

Wheat prices have risen 130 percent since March 2007, UNESCO says, while soy prices jumped 87 percent. The World Bank reported last week that world food prices have risen 83 percent over the last three years.

Some critics are blaming, in part, the increasing use of biofuel. With crude oil prices high, some farmers in the West have turned to growing wheat, sugar beets, or other products to produce fuel. Critics say that has inflated food prices.

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