Poverty: 260m driven into hunger by push for biofuel - ActionAid
- 1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/03/biofuels.food?gusrc=rss&feed=worldnews
Poverty: 260m driven into hunger by push for biofuel - ActionAidThe G8's push for greater biofuel use has been a significant factor in driving 760 million people into food insecurity and putting them at risk of hunger in the past two years, ActionAid says today.
Released before next week's G8 summit in Hokkaido, Japan, the charity's report, Cereal Offenders, says the 82% rise in food commodity prices since 2006 has directly pushed 260 million people into risk of hunger as a result of the rich world's drive for biofuels.
Its report coincides with a warning yesterday from Robert Zoellick, the World Bank president, that the world is entering a "danger zone" caused by rising food and energy prices.
"What we are witnessing is not a natural disaster ... it is a man-made catastrophe. I urge the G8 countries, in concert with major oil producers, to act now to address this crisis. This is a test of the global system to help the most vulnerable and it cannot afford to fail," he said.
ActionAid's report comes as Professor Ed Gallagher prepares to release his government-sponsored review of biofuels, which may conclude that the European Union's ambitious targets for biofuel use may be misguided.
ActionAid says the huge thirst for biofuels is mainly a consequence of the targets and subsidies the rich world has put in place to build energy security. Biofuel subsidies to US and EU farmers are worth between $16bn (£8bn) and $18bn a year - four times as much as all agricultural aid to the developing world. It says the food crisis has come at a time of record harvests. In 2007, world cereal production hit a new high and is forecast to increase again in 2008.
Tom Sharman, ActionAid policy officer, said: "The global food crisis is creating poverty and hunger and it is being fuelled by policies and practices dictated by G8 nations ... The rise of biofuel production and the increasing impact of climate change coupled with an unparalleled decrease in agricultural aid are creating a triple whammy for poor countries."
Nearly 30 years of agricultural aid policies have laid the foundation for today's crisis, it says. Aid to farmers in developing countries has nearly halved since 1980 to under $4bn, or 3% of the total subsidies given to farmers in rich countries.
Aid has also been used to encourage governments to change their agricultural sectors towards production of export commodities such as fruit and vegetables, which rely on heavy use of fertilisers. Poor farmers cannot compete and large landowners and food companies have moved in, it says.
Bob Geldof, who is attending the G8 summit on behalf of campaign group ONE, said: "It is tragic and absurd that people are still going hungry in the 21st century. I cannot stand the idea that a food crisis born out of high energy prices and increasing global prosperity is starving the super-poor in Africa."
The ONE campaign is calling on each G8 country, led by Japan, to increase the quantity and improve the quality of investments in African agriculture for the next 15-20 years.
Three nails in the coffin: the G8’s contribution to the global food crisis03 July 2008In a time of unprecedented plenty, ActionAid's new report, Cereal Offenders, charges that G8 leaders are single-mindedly pursuing policies and practices around biofuels, agricultural aid and climate change that are fuelling the global food crisis.
ActionAid estimates that the 82% rise in food prices since 2006 has put 760 million people at risk of hunger in addition to the 100 million who have been pushed below the $1-a-day poverty level. Even before the latest crisis, 850 million people were chronically hungry and millions more were at risk of hunger.
Yet the food crisis has come at a time of record harvests. In 2007, world cereal production hit a new high and is forecast to increase again in 2008 by an additional 2.6% to 2,164 million tons.
Tom Sharman, Policy Officer said: "The global food crisis is creating poverty and hunger and it is being fuelled by policies and practices dictated by G8 nations.
"The rise of biofuel production and the increasing impact of climate change coupled with an unparalleled decrease in agricultural aid are creating a triple whammy for poor countries."
ActionAid says that the voracious demand for biofuels is largely a consequence of the targets and subsidies that the rich world has established to build energy security.
Biofuel subsidies to US and EU farmers are worth between US$16 and US$18bn a year, or four times a much as all agricultural aid to the developing world.
Grain and vegetable oil are consequently being diverted to biofuels rather than food, leading to scarcity and rocketing prices. In the developing world, land on which farmers and pastoralists produce food is being converted to biofuel monocultures.
The result of this, according to ActionAid, is that around 260 million people are either hungry or at risk of hunger because of biofuels.
Almost three decades of donor-driven agricultural aid policies have also helped to lay the foundation for today's food crisis. Structures that provided access to credit, agricultural inputs and technical assistance have been dismantled.
At the same time, aid to developing country farmers has nearly halved since 1980 to US$ 3.9bn. This is only 3% of the total subsidies given to farmers in rich countries.
Aid has also been used to encourage governments to reorient their agricultural sectors towards production of export commodities such as fruit and vegetables, which rely on monocultures and high use of fertilisers. Poor farmers cannot compete and large landowners and giant agriculture and food companies have moved in.
The third nail in the developing world’s coffin is global warming. Studies indicate that agriculture at low latitudes is likely to be particularly affected by climate change, caused in the main by the "dirty" development of G8 countries.
In Africa, yields from rain-fed agriculture could drop by as much as 50% by 2020 because of rising temperatures, floods and droughts
ActionAid says the only way to make a difference for the millions of people in the developing world who can no longer afford to buy food is for G8 countries to:
- Remove all biofuels subsidies and targets, and support a five year moratorium on the diversion of arable land into biofuel mono-cropping.
- Increase aid to agriculture to enable developing countries to rebuild their agricultural sectors in favour of poor farmers.
- Provide generous and timely funding to developing countries to help them adapt to the new realities presented by climate change.
"By taking action at Hokkaido to place a moratorium on biofuel production, address agricultural aid polices and tackle climate change, the G8 could help to pull 750 million people back from the edge of hunger."[Ends]
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