Many of the world's poorer people cannot get enough food because of soaring prices partly caused by the use of food crops to produce biofuels, the head of the U.N. food agency said.
"We're seeing more people hungry and at greater numbers than before," Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, said Monday.
Higher oil prices are contributing to steeper food prices by boosting transportation costs, and severe weather is also hitting many countries and hurting crop output, she said.
"We're seeing many people being priced out of the food markets for the first time," said Sheeran, who was at U.N. headquarters for a General Assembly debate on global warming.
The WFP provides food aid around the globe, and Sheeran said the amount of food the agency can afford to buy for hungry children is down 40 percent from five years ago.
One of the problems is the drive to use corn, soybeans, sugar cane and other crops to produce biofuels, which are seen as a cleaner and cheaper way to meet soaring energy needs than greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels.
In Rome, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization said Wednesday that 100-million tons of cereals are diverted to the production of biofuels each year.
Sheeran said it would help if biofuel makers focused on using plants that aren't good for food, noting that anything with cellulose can be used for such fuels, citing switchgrass, shrubs and trees as examples.