Food crisis requires handling by experts, similar to climate change panel - French President

Food crisis requires handling by experts, similar to climate change panel - French President

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he has received international support for his idea of creating an experts group to tackle the global food crisis, similar to the Noble Prize-winning panel on climate change.

"In the 21st century, we must be able to feed the planet," Sarkozy said in an interview published in Japan's Yomiuri newspaper Monday, as the Group of Eight summit of major economic powers was opening on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, the AP reported.

Early last month, Sarkozy proposed creating a panel of top experts on food issues, similar to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to diagnose problems and help world leaders make the best possible decisions. Sarkozy told the newspaper that the world needs the panel "to improve our way of approaching and understanding food problems."

"This idea seems to have been received favorably by our G-8 partners, and I am delighted," Sarkozy told the newspaper. A transcript of his remarks was also provided by his office.

The president's office has said it expects the G-8 to endorse much of his thinking on the subject during the Monday-Wednesday summit.

Food prices have risen worldwide in recent months because of high oil prices, growing demand, extreme weather, higher biofuel production and market speculation. The crisis has triggered protests in parts of Africa and Asia, while raising fears of widespread malnutrition and economic instability.

The food crisis was high on the agenda, along with climate change, soaring oil prices and possible steps against Zimbabwe, at the G-8 summit, which brings together France, the United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

Sarkozy has often urged the G-8 to expand to take in growing powers China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, saying it is unwise to keep them on the sidelines. Sarkozy told Yomiuri that, "at the least," those countries should be brought in for a full day of discussions at the annual G-8 summits. In Japan, the countries have been invited for a half-day of talks.

With oil prices up more than 50 percent so far this year, Sarkozy said oil producers should boost production. He also urged the G-8 to encourage market transparency by asking both producer and consumer nations to release information about how much oil they have in reserves or in stock.

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