"For many countries, the world goal of reducing hunger by half is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve," Food and Agriculture Organisation Director-General Jacques Diouf told a news conference, referring to one of the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000.
"This sad reality should not be acceptable at the dawn of the 21st century," the FAO chief said, adding: "Even the objective of cutting by half the number of hungry by 2015 is morally unacceptable."
The global food crisis has added 40 million more people to the ranks of the hungry this year, taking the estimated number to 963 million, he said, unveiling the Rome-based agency's annual report on world food insecurity.
The crisis affects mainly the poorest, the landless and female-headed households, says the report, "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008."
Diouf, who has called on wealthy countries to invest 30 billion dollars (23 billion euros) a year in agriculture, said the figure was only eight percent of agricultural subsidies paid out in developed countries.
"Thirty billion dollars is nothing compared to subsidies and support in OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, ... nothing compared to the billions of dollars being spent in all developing countries to face the (ongoing global) financial crisis," he said.
"I don't think that (30 billion dollars) is asking too much," Diouf said.
"We are not saying that (farmers in wealthy countries) should not be supported," he said. "But they should be supported in a way that does not distort the market and have a negative impact on the capacity of farmers in developing countries."
"We must ask, 'What is the priority? Is it the 923 million who don't have the basic human right to eat?'" Diouf said.
Diouf said he had asked US president-elect Barack Obama to take the lead in the goal of "eradicating hunger from the face of the Earth," beginning with a summit next year "to find the ways and means for mobilising 30 billion dollars a year."
Recalling Obama's campaign slogan "Yes We Can," Diouf said: "We can do it ... if we give priority to world food security."
"I hope he (Obama) will help us make it happen," he added.
Diouf urged world leaders to "revisit the whole system of governance, of the world food system to ensure security for everybody and develop the capacity to allow farmers to gain access to feed, fertiliser, seed" and other agricultural inputs.
"We have learned over the last year that food security is also a matter of peace and security around the world," Diouf said. "We have seen 20 countries around the world rioting over hunger."
The FAO report calls for a "comprehensive twin-track approach" coupling measures to enable the agriculture sector to respond to high prices with "targeted safety nets and social protection programmes for the most food-insecure and vulnerable."
It says the vast majority of under-nourished people, some 907 million, live in developing countries, and that seven countries alone account for 65 percent of that figure: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.