Expansion of food production and economic growth can help eliminate hunger in the 1990s, the director of the International Food Policy Research Center said Wednesday.

The director, John Mellor, said one-third of the world's 700 million hungry people live in areas that are eager to try modern techniques for increasing production, which can increase economic growth off the farm and relieve the pressure on overcrowded cities.Just as in the high-potential areas, efforts in low-potential areas must concentrate on improving farm production and education but with more emphasis on low-cost innovation, Mellor said in a briefing held in preparation for his speech Friday to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

"The 1990s can be a decade in which major strides are made in abolishing hunger which will clearly indicate its approaching end," he said in remarks prepared for the conference.

Mellor recommended a strategy of eliminating poverty and hunger through economic growth. Agriculture has a central role in the plan.

Although the 1980s have led to pessimism because of high interest rates, low food prices and large Third World debt, Mellor said he believes they are an aberration and that growth in the 1990s can match the advances of the 1960s and 1970s.

Mellor said his idea of applying high-yielding technology means research for better crops along with the appropriate use of technology.

"The other broad category that we now know is critical . . . is roads and infrastruture that will allow the technology to spread to all farmers and allows the employment multipliers to work to make adequate jobs for the poor," he said.

Large-scale foreign assistance probably will be needed to aid areas with low agricultural potential, he said.

Mellor also suggested action to dampen swings in grain production and prices. Fluctuations in production are growing larger, as are price swings, he said, partly due to U.S. policies to reduce its surpluses.

"The biggest losers from instability in food supplies and prices are, of course, the poor," he said.

Grain stockpiles are costly, he said, so international trade may provide the answer to successive years of bad crops.