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UN condemns biofuels growth
Battle plans drawn up as an envoy describes biofuels as "a crime against humanity".
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2008 03:03 GMT
Ziegler says that 'insurrection' and 'instability'
could result from a lack of food security
The United Nations is expected to reveal a new battle plan to tackle the growing crisis in global food provision.

Monday's meeting in Switzerland follows a warning from the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, who says developed countries and the biofuel industry are largely to blame for the current food shortages.
"Bioethanol is one of the reasons why food prices have exploded. Last year the US burned 138 million tons of maize and transformed it into bioethanol and biodiesel," Jean Ziegler told Al Jazeera.
 
"Burning food today, so as to serve the mobility of the rich countries, is a crime against humanity."
Stark warning
 
Ziegler's warning comes amid a continuing rise in the price of corn, which is increasingly used not for food, but for fuel.
 
Al Jazeera exclusive


Global concern over food price increases

In the last twelve months, corn prices have rocketed by 31 per cent, according to Bloomberg.
 
About 20 per cent of corn in the United States was turned into ethanol last year.
 
That proportion is set to rise to 45 per cent in the next seven years, the United States Department of Agriculture says.
 
"Last year the US burned 138 million tons on maize and transformed it into bioethanol and biodiesel," Ziegler told Al Jazeera.
 
Ziegler said the gains made by rich countries on world food markets should be reinvested to help poor countries improve their access to food.
 
"All the money that can be mobilised by the rich countries of the north should go… to irrigation, to fertilisers, to roads and markets – so that the poorest countries of the world can feed themselves," he said.
 
As corn is also used to feed livestock, meat prices are also increasing to account for the rise in the cost of corn.
 
"President Zoellick from the World Bank thinks almost one-third of the price rise is due to speculative gains [on world commodity markets]," Ziegler said.
 
"Reforms, which are urgent, depend on the will of the democratic countries… If they don't happen, for years to come there will be hunger, insurrection, instability and above all, the deaths of hundreds and hundreds of millions of people."
 
Reality 'oversimplified'
 
While the UN is concerned that poverty will increase as a result of soaring food prices, a spokesman for the European Bioethanol Fuel Association said that Ziegler was "oversimplifying" the reality of the situation.
 
The diversion of food crops to the biofuels
industry is set to increase
 
"The fact is that we are only using one per cent of all the agricultural land for growing biofuels," Robert Vierhoult told Al Jazeera.
 
"We use 80 per cent for animal feed. The reality is that hunger is caused by poverty, not biofuels."
 
He said that the rise in food prices had been aggravated by a changing in eating habits in Asia.
 
"People are consuming more meat and more dairy produce. That has had an enormous impact on the price of agricultural commodities," he said.
 
Vierhoult argued that rising oil prices meant that biofuels had to considered as a viable fuel source.
 
"Today, we are paying $120 a barrel [for oil]... I think that has a bigger impact on poor countries than the fact that we are using biofuels."
 
Brazil's president has also said that ignoring biofuels could hinder global development.
 
"The real crime against humanity would be to just cast aside biofuels and push countries struggling with food and energy shortages towards dependency and insecurity," Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Wednesday.
 
He said that critics of biofuels have failed to mention that high price crude oil prices have adversely affected food production.
 
And he said "incapacity of several countries to produce their own food is a consequence of distortions in the international trade of these products".
 
Yet the World Bank says 90 kg of corn will produce enough ethanol to fill up the fuel tank of a car just once.
 
The same amount of corn could feed a child for one year, it says.
 
Jim Connaughton, the senior climate change advisor to the US government, has said that "second-generation" biofuels, made from non-food sources, are a way forward.
 
He said fuels made from wood by-products and switchgrass could eventually comprise half of the US' legally mandated biofuel production.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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