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World Bank: Food Prices Approaching 'Dangerous Levels

WASHINGTON (AP/The Blaze) — The World Bank delivered a stark warning of the impact of the rising cost of food Tuesday, saying an estimated 44 million people had been pushed into poverty since last summer by soaring commodity prices.

The group's president, Robert Zoellick, says global food prices have hit "dangerous levels" that could contribute to political instability, push millions of people into poverty and raise the cost of groceries.

"Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people around the world," Zoellick said. "The price hike is already pushing millions of people into poverty, and putting stress on the most vulnerable, who spend more than half of their income on food."

The bank says in a new report that global food prices have jumped 29 percent in the past year, and are just 3 percent below the all-time peak hit in 2008. According to its Food Price Watch, the World Bank's food price index was up by 15 percent between October 2010 and January 2011, is 29 percent above its level from just a year earlier, and only 3 percent below its 2008 peak.

Wheat prices have been hit the hardest, doubling between June last year and January 2011, while maize prices were up 73 percent.

"Measures to address the recent round of food price spikes include expanding nutritional and safety net programs in countries where food prices are rising fastest, avoiding food export restrictions, and finding better information on food stocks," the group noted. "More investments in agriculture, the development of less food-intensive biofuels and climate change adaptation are also needed."

Zoellick said the rising prices have hit people hardest in the developing world because they spend as much as half their income on food and suggested rising global food prices were an "aggravating factor" for protests which have toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia in recent weeks.

Additionally, Zoellick said he expects food prices to continue to rise, and that export bans and weather disruptions are partly to blame.

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