U.N. Summit: Corn on Table or in Tank?

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WASHINGTON - Today a special U.N. summit convenes in Italy to decide just what can be done to stop the rapid increase in the price of food.

Should crops like corn be used for food - or fuel? The debate comes as prices have gone up 83 percent in the last three years.

An Uneasy Meeting of the Minds

Beyond agreeing on the need to combat the global food crisis, consensus at the food summit has not come easy.

Click play to get Pat Robertson's analysis following CBN News Correspondent John Jessup's report.

With protests and riots over food shortages and price increases, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is urging the world to boost food production by 50 percent over the next 20 years.

"This is a fight we cannot afford to lose. The enemy is hunger. Hunger degrades everything we have been fighting for in recent years and decades," Ban said.

But that's easier said than done, especially when it comes to identifying the cause of the problem.

Is the Biofuel Craze to Blame?

Critics quickly turned their focus on the use of biofuels like ethanol, arguing the rush to use alternative sources of energy has caused a shortage of food.

The U.S. defends its use of corn-based ethanol, insisting that the impact on price spikes is only between 2-3 percent.

But analysts say there are other factors too, including rising fuel costs, price speculation in the markets, and recent droughts and floods which cut back on the production of food- and made it more expensive.

Meanwhile, here in America, people are complaining about the food crisis as well: from price spikes on everything from milk, eggs and bread - to a rising demand at food banks.

Program directors for meals on wheels say they're seeing a sharp increase in the number of seniors applying for assistance.

"With the food going up like it is, a lot of our seniors are not eating food as they should. They're getting medicine. They're taking medicine with it," the Senior Center's Gail Adams said.

What the Fed Has to Say

Despite worry over the rising costs of commodities like food and oil, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke doubts that the country is in for a repeat of a 1970s-style inflation.

"Then as now, we were facing a serious oil price shock, sharply rising prices for food and other commodities and sub-par today's situation differs from that of 33 years ago, in large part because our economy and society have become much more flexible," Bernanke said.

The problem is, a growing number of Americans feel they don't have much financial flexibility when it comes to paying for today's increased cost of living.

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John Jessup

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