A three-day UN summit on how to tackle global hunger is underway in Rome.
But anti-poverty campaigners are already writing off the event as a missed opportunity.
Of the G8 leaders only Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is attending.
The leaders of developing nations are expected to remind G8 countries of their pledge to spend billions to help subsistence farmers increase their productivity.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the summit:
“We must ensure safety nets for those who cannot afford food. We must transform agriculture development, markets and how food is distributed. We must do so based on a thorough understanding of the issues. That is the only way to meet the Millennium development goals by 2015.”
The UN’s food agency says the number of people going hungry in the world topped one billion for the first time in 2009. It also warns that global food production will have to rise by 70 per cent to feed the projected world population of 9 billion in 2050.
The cost of boosting agriculture in developing countries to an adequate level is estimated at nearly 30 billion euros a year.
But critics fear not enough is being done to attain the necessary targets.
A final declaration adopted by the summit includes only a general promise to provide agricultural aid with no timeframe for action.
A pledge to eliminate malnutrition by 2025 has been abandoned and replaced with a vague commitment for world leaders to “eradicate hunger at the earliest possible date.”
The London-based think tank International Policy Network blames trade restrictions for the food crisis and says the real cause of food shortages is not even on the agenda.