Representatives of the US attempted to fight off criticism for its new farm subsided and policies on genetically modified crops at the UN World Food Summit currently underway in Rome, Italy.

The country#;s new farm bill has come under fire for stifling trade and harming poor farmer, and much of the talk at the Summit focuses on just these issues. European Commission president Romano Prodi attacked the significant new US farm subsidies that President Bush approved last month. US agriculture secretary Ann Veneman told the summit that the criticism was misplaced, and that the US is still firmly committed to lowering subsidies in the future.

Meanwhile, opponents o f biotechnology slammed the US position on genetically modified plants, saying the financial benefit derived from them goes to the multinational corporations behind them, and not to farmers or consumers. Again, Venenam stepped up to defend the policy, saying that biotechnology was one of the key ways to fight hunger by increasing productivity, improving crop quality and reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

Such benefits, she said, "are just a few of the ways science and technology can improve the quality of life in developing countries."

Several delegations from the developing world agreed, but they said they want access to the patented technology, so they, too, can benefit from it.

However, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni dismissed the US claim that a lack of technology is to blame for world hunger, saying there's more than enough food to go around.

"Let us stop beating around the bush," he is reported as saying. "The most fundamental problems are not the weather, are not lack of improved seeds. The main causes of food shortages in the world are really three: wars, protectionism in agricultural products in Europe, the USA, China, India and Japan, and protectionism in value-added products on the part of the same countries."