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    In an atmosphere of crisis, amid fears that millions will die of starvation this year, the nations of the world meet in Rome from November 5 - 16 for the United Nations World Food Conference.

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    In an atmosphere of crisis, amid fears that millions will die of starvation this year, the nations of the world meet in Rome from November 5 - 16 for the United Nations World Food Conference.

    It is the first political meeting on the world food problem to be held, and its delegates face the task of deciding how to bridge the widening gap between the food the world produces and what is actually needed to feed the growing millions of mankind.

    The facts of impending disaster are clear. For the second time since the Second World War the world harvest has fallen below the previous year's total - the first time was 1972. Last year's harvest was 1.2 billions tons of grain. This year's is 22 million down on that.

    Asia is facing the largest food deficit in its history and this time there are no American reserves available. Since 1961 U.S. food reserves have dropped from 95 days of grain consumption to about 26 - the minimum the United States likes to hold for its own needs.

    In the year the world population has increased by 70 million. With the pressures for the available food supply intensifying, prices are likely to continue rising and the poor of the Third World will more and more be unable to afford to eat.

    The Secretary General of the World Food Conference, Mr. Sayeda Marei says: "The food problem facing mankind today is probably the most serious one in the world's history. Over the past two years it has become so serious that it is now literally threatening the survival of hundreds of millions."
    In such a situation Ministers and experts from many lands are meeting to discuss practical suggestions on how to reverse the devastating trend.

    As a short term measure the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation(FAO) has set up a fertiliser pool and is also trying to mobilize financial and technical assistance for the purchase of fertilizers and improving local production.

    In one report prepared for the Conference, it is claimed that the spectre of world food crisis can be banished by interlinked programmes of massive new investment in agriculture, with contributions from the oil-rich countries, expanded food aid, security stockpiling of food supplies and better trading arrangements.

    Another suggestion for improving man's food supply, which will be put before the forthcoming conference, is to make some seven million square kilometres (about 4 1/2 million square miles) of tropical Africa fit for cattle production by ridding it of the tsetse fly, which passes on to cattle a disease similar to human sleeping sickness.

    Unfortunately it is estimated that it will take at least 20 to 30 years to control the tsetse fly and cost over 2,250 million US dollars.(about 1000 million stirling).

    The Food Conference will also be told that developing countries could double their fish production by 1985, greatly increasing supplies of protein food for human nutrition if they reduced the wastage of the so-called "trash fish" which are thrown back into the sea, and also improved fishery practices and developed scientific fish farming.

    But the challenge has never been greater. To feed a world population which will inevitably double in the next 27 years record harvests are needed every year.

    Certainly the optimism of the 1960's when the Green Revolution of new high yielding strains of wheat and rice seemed to hold the promise that the world would be able to feed itself, is now over.

    In 1972 bad weather ruined crops all over the world, some new high yield varieties of rice encountered technical problems, and everywhere, demand for food increased.

    Some of the world's leading climatologists have suggested that for the last 50 years the world has enjoyed above average conditions for crop growth and that the weather in the next 50 may not be so favourable.

    Unless a massive international effort is made immediately to improve the food production capacities of the developing nations the world may soon arrive at the situation predicted six years ago by the English novelist C.P.Snow that "many millions of people in the poor countries are going to starve to death before our eyes. We will see them doing so on our television sets."

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