THE BLOG

A Hunger Conference with Canapes and Thinly Sliced Veal

06/04/2008 05:49 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world...

A U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization hunger conference, called to address skyrocketing food prices, has opened with Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's pronouncement that the world must increase food output by 50% before the year 2030 to avert a global catastrophe.

The three-day conference received press after Western representatives who'd protested the attendance by Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe -- whose people are said to be suffering from hunger through his mismanagement -- had stated they would not converse with him there.

That did not stop other attendees from kissing Mugabe on the cheek in welcome.

Another moment that stood out?

The gourmet repast the attendees dined upon while they all but ignored the speech given by Bangladesh's Foreign Minister describing the famine in his country.

The FAO luncheon was not the only food game in town for delegates. Premier Silvio Berlusconi was co-hosting a state dinner Tuesday evening with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at Villa Madama, a Renaissance villa. Berlusconi aides said they planned what they call a "Tricolore menu" -- a meal that evokes the green, white and red of the Italian flag and has become a standard of formal dining under the patriotic premier. For the Tuesday dinner, guests were being served pasta with pesto, cheese and tomatoes, a beef steak with a tricolore side dish of vegetables and pistachio, and vanilla and strawberry ice cream.

NGO representatives have taken a pragmatic view in reaction to the conference's culinary delights in the hope that the attendees will part with the billions needed to avert the looming world food crisis.

"Leaders can eat what they want as long as they take decisive action to deliver the policies and the aid in agriculture that is needed to ensure that poor people who are suffering from high food prices are helped," said Alexander Woollcombe, a spokesman for the British aid group Oxfam.

Food riots have been increasing due to skyrocketing inflation, a problem that has been exacerbated by a world-wide rice shortage, the growing desertification of fertile regions, the declining value of the dollar, the increased value of the petrol-dollar, the pressure on supply due to diversion of crops to biofuel production, pollution, overpopulation, over-fishing, the lack of sustainable farming techniques, mismanagement by dictators and corporate interests, droughts in Australia's wheat basket....

The list is seemingly endless.

All of which has culminated in world-wide food riots and heartbreaking reports of the growing extinction rates of threatened species -- which may soon have to be modified to include humans if inflation and environmental degradation continues to spin out of control.

Meanwhile, back at the conference, the hors d'oeuvre have been very well received.

More on this topic at THE ENVIRONMENTALIST