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New EU fund takes aim at food crisis

by Eric Johnston

TOYAKO, Hokkaido — To address the ongoing international food crisis, which has sparked violent, deadly riots in several parts of the world, the European Commission hopes to make euro 1 billion available to support agriculture in developing countries, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Monday, the first day of the Group of Eight summit.

“I am announcing today our intention to propose a new 1 billion euro facility to support agriculture in developing countries, aimed at generating a strong and rapid agricultural supply response,” the European Commission president said.

Under the proposal, the money, which comes from unspent European Union funds, would be made available to about 60 developing countries worldwide.

It is to be used for helping farmers purchase fertilizer and seeds, as well as foodstuffs. The exact form of the aid has yet to be decided, but officials indicated it would be distributed in the form of grants and loans.

Barroso also said it was vital that the G8 take the lead on climate change, of which the food crisis is one symptom, by committing to a long-term, concrete goal to lower greenhouse gas emissions and agreeing, in principle, to midterm reduction targets.

“All G8 members must realize that we must reduce emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels,” Barroso said.

The president also stressed the importance of midterm reduction goals, which are to be agreed to by next December, when a U.N. conference on climate change convenes in Copenhagen to decide a post-Kyoto Protocol treaty that will run from 2013 to about 2020.