Attempts to alleviate worldwide hunger through U.S. foreign aid are being frustrated by trade and investment policies that reinforce the economic inequities of developing countries, consumer advocate Ralph Nader claimed yesterday.

Nader made the charge at a press conference in which he released a draft of a General Accounting Office study of the implications of U.S. policies on world hunger.

The report, which was released by its two authors -- but only by the GAO, which called the release "premature" -- argues that widespread hunger cannot be explained simply as a shortage of food, but rather as "a product of poverty resulting directly from the ways in which government and bussiness manage national and international economies," a system which the authors claim creates "permanent peasantry."

The report goes on to suggest that U.S. trade and investment policies should be altered to encourage and support developing countries to more equitably distribute their resources, including land.

"If we keep sucking in the raw materials of developing nations and the rich from those nations keep getting richer while the poor stay poor, we are heading for a worldwide explosion," said Nader.

The two authors, Nick Mottern and Moe Rodenstein, who were hired by the GAO solely to produce this report, said they released it yesterday because they feared the GAO would delay releasing it, or even suppress it.

"A delay would prevent the report from contributing to the work of the President's Hunger Commission and the U.N. Land Reform Conference as well as the U.S. Mexico Agricultural Trade Negotiations that are currently under way," Mottern said.

The report focuses on U.S.-Mexico trade policies as an example of the problem, recommending that the U.S. refrain from significant increases in trade with that country pending "adoption of more equitable distribution policies by the Mexican government."

According to the report, 30 percent of the Mexican population is believed to be chronically undernourished as a result of the "mal-distribution of agricultural resources."

And, the report concludes, "if the economic system of a nation distributes resources inequitably, aid will follow the same general path and may reinforce or increase inequity, thereby failing to reduce poverty and undernutrition."

For their part, GAO officials expressed surprise that the authors released the report prematurely, contending that the agency has only had the report for three weeks, and normal pre-release review takes about four months.

Jack Brock, a GAO food staff auditor who was editing the report said that although the report "didn't read very well and needs some editing," he didn't think "it had any major problems."