World leaders enjoy 18-course banquet... then discuss how to solve global food crisisBy James Chapman
Jul. 08, 2008
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Just two days ago, Gordon Brown was urging us all to stop wasting food and combat rising prices and a global shortage of provisions.
But yesterday the Prime Minister and other world leaders sat down to an 18-course gastronomic extravaganza at a G8 summit in Japan, which is focusing on the food crisis.
The dinner, and a six-course lunch, at the summit of leading industrialised nations on the island of Hokkaido, included delicacies such as caviar, milkfed lamb, sea urchin and tuna, with champagne and wines flown in from Europe and the U.S.
But the extravagance of the menus drew disapproval from critics who thought it hypocritical to produce such a lavish meal when world food supplies are under threat.
On Sunday, Mr Brown called for prudence and thrift in our kitchens, after a Government report concluded that 4.1million tonnes of food was being wasted by householders.
He suggested we could save up to £8 a week by making our shopping go further. It was vital to reduce 'unnecessary demand' for food, he said.
Last night's dinner menu was created by Katsuhiro Nakamura, the first Japanese chef to win a Michelin star. It was themed: Hokkaido, blessings of the earth and the sea.
But Dominic Nutt, of the charity Save the Children, did not approve.
'It is deeply hypocritical that they should be lavishing course after course on world leaders when there is a food crisis and millions cannot afford a decent meal,' he said.
'If the G8 wants to betray the hopes of a generation of children, it is going the right way about it. The food crisis is an emergency and the G8 must treat it as that.'
In 2005, at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, world leaders promised to increase global aid by £25billion a year by 2010 and raise aid to Africa, the world's poorest continent, by £12.5billion. But the bloc of rich nations is only 14 per cent of the way towards hitting its target.
Britain is meeting its commitments in full, but other countries are understood to be dragging their feet - and there are fears the figures on global aid could be watered down.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, who face pressure to cut spending at home, are understood to be leading the charge to weaken the Gleneagles proposal.
Tory international development spokesman Andrew Mitchell said: 'The G8 have made a bad start to their summit, with excessive cost and lavish consumption.
'Surely it is not unreasonable for each leader to give a guarantee that they will stand by their solemn pledges of three years ago at Gleneagles to help the world's poor.
'All of us are watching, waiting and listening.'
A World Bank study released last week estimated that up to 105million more people, including 30million in Africa, could drop below the poverty line because of rising food prices.
Yesterday the European Union agreed to channel £800million in unused European farm subsidies to African farmers, as part of its response to the global food crisis.
'The EU really can give a boost to agriculture in developing countries,' Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, told the meeting.
The money will be used to buy seed and fertiliser and fund agriculture projects in Africa.
The meal was served at the Windsor Hotel, on the shores of Lake Toya, where the presidential suite costs £7,000 a night.
Japan has spent a record sum of money and deployed about 20,000 police to seal off the remote lakeside town of Toyako for the three-day talks.
Slim pickings from the Russian leaderBritain's relations with Russia remained chilly last night as Mr Brown held the first talks with President Dmitry Medvedev.
He is understood to have pressed for the extradition of former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoy, wanted for the London poisoning of dissident Alexander Litvinenko.
But Mr Medvedev refused to budge on that issue - or on the closure of British Council offices in Russia and arrest of its employees.
A Kremlin official said the talks had 'not avoided any sharp corners'. Mr Medvedev had concentrated on 'the prospects of restoring relations to the level they were on several years ago', he said.
Mr Brown 'brought up the issues that particularly concerned the British side, such as the British Council and activities of certain major oil companies and a number of certain-well-known cases', he added. 'Dmitry Medvedev gave necessary explanations and pointed to the importance of a long-term approach in UK-Russian co-operation.'
There were signs Russia may support tougher action against Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. It has been reluctant to support sanctions, but British sources at the G8 summit said opposition was easing.
The G8 is expected to support a proposal of a UN envoy to broker an exit for Mugabe.