The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) high-level conference on food security opened in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on May 9 to discuss the current situation on food security and future cooperation between the two regions.

Theera Wongsamut, Thai Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, opened the event, stressing factors that would generate negative impacts on food security include increasing world population, natural resource degradation, more frequent and more severe natural disasters, global climate change as well as rising fuel and production input prices.

According to the minister, the soaring food price in 2008 led to rising number of undernourished people in the world, and the decrease in food production due to climate change-caused natural disasters has led to food shortages in many countries.

High food and oil prices could push an additional 42 million people into poverty in the Asia-Pacific region and threaten its economic growth, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific said in its annual social and economic report last week.

The two-day conference drew about 150 officials, academics and experts on food and agriculture from 20 countries and international organisations such as ASEAN, the European Union and the World Food Programme./.