World Bank president Robert Zoellick has astutely pointed out that food and fuel prices have entered a 'danger zone'. His development organisation has predicted that 100 million people could, as a result, be pushed deeper into poverty and the risk to civil unrest considerably heightened in more than 30 countries. He has rightly asked the leaders of the wealthiest nations, the Group of Eight, to tackle the threat head-on at their annual summit in Japan next week. G8 summits are usually an occasion for talk and photo opportunities and then some more talk. Grandiose schemes are offered up, consensus waters them down, agreements are signed and there is limited follow-through. But, as Mr Zoellick has indicated, this cannot be the case when the leaders start their discussions on Monday. A man-made, not a natural, catastrophe looms and it must be fixed by people - and there are no better-placed ones than the leaders of the G8. Their task is challenging, to say the least. There are myriad reasons why food and fuel costs are increasing. Both feed into another matter high on the G8 agenda - global warming. The complexities are many; the need for action is urgent. The most immediate action they can take is to comply with Mr Zoellick's request for US$10 billion in extra aid to help the worst-hit countries. Oil-producing nations, benefiting richly from record prices, should also contribute. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has listed 37 countries as being in substantial need. There were 41 nations experiencing negative growth directly because of rising prices, the World Bank said yesterday. Then, the G8 leaders should take a hard look at their countries' protectionist policies and subsidies. These are reducing incentives for greater agricultural output and penalising poor nations trying to compete in global markets. The US, for one, has greatly affected international prices and supplies of corn, a staple in a number of Latin American countries and a major animal feed, through offering incentives to grow the crop for fuel rather than food. Lastly, greater funding must be put into research of new farming techniques to counter the effects of climatic extremes. Productivity has to be increased, particularly in poor nations. Water has to be used more efficiently. The environment must be treated wisely. The world has a crisis on its hands. How high fuel prices will go is anybody's guess. Clearly, though, increased energy and transport costs will mean paying more for food. This is something the world's poor, no matter whether they live in developed or developing countries, can ill afford. The people most able to help them are the leaders of the G8. They must act decisively - and make good with their promises.