wild places | wild happenings | wild news
make a difference for our wild places

home | links | search the site
  all articles latest | past | articles by topics | search wildnews
wild news on wildsingapore
  PlanetArk 29 Oct 07
UN Food Expert Seeks 5-Year Moratorium on Biofuels
Story by Claudia Parsons

Yahoo News 27 Oct 07
UN expert seeks to halt biofuel output
By Edith M Lederer, Associated Press

A U.N. expert on Friday called the growing practice of converting food crops into biofuel "a crime against humanity," saying it is creating food shortages and price jumps that cause millions of poor people to go hungry.

Jean Ziegler, who has been the United Nations' independent expert on the right to food since the position was established in 2000, called for a five-year moratorium on biofuel production to halt what he called a growing "catastrophe" for the poor.

Scientific research is progressing very quickly, he said, "and in five years it will be possible to make biofuel and biodiesel from agricultural waste" rather than wheat, corn, sugar cane and other food crops.

Using biofuel instead of gasoline in cars is generally considered to cut carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming, although some scientists say greenhouse gases released during the production of biofuel could offset those gains.

The use of crops for biofuel has being pursued especially in Brazil and the United States.

Last March, President Bush and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed an agreement committing their countries to boosting ethanol production. They said increasing use of alternative fuels would lead to more jobs, a cleaner environment and greater independence from the whims of the oil market.

Ziegler called their motives legitimate, but said that "the effect of transforming hundreds and hundreds of thousands of tons of maize, of wheat, of beans, of palm oil, into agricultural fuel is absolutely catastrophic for the hungry people."

The world price of wheat doubled in one year and the price of corn quadrupled, leaving poor countries, especially in Africa, unable to pay for the imported food needed to feed their people, he said. And poor people in those countries are unable to pay the soaring prices for the food that does come in, he added.

"So it's a crime against humanity" to devote agricultural land to biofuel production, Ziegler said a news conference. "What has to be stopped is ... the growing catastrophe of the massacre (by) hunger in the world," he said.

As an example, he said, it takes 510 pounds of corn to produce 13 gallons of ethanol. That much corn could feed a child in Zambia or Mexico for a year, he said.

Benjamin Chang, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said the Bush administration didn't consider biofuel development a threat to the poor.

"It's clear we have a commitment to the development of biofuels," he said. "It's also clear that we are committed to combatting poverty and supporting economic development around the world as the leading contributor of overseas development assistance in the world."

Ziegler, a sociology professor at the University of Geneva and the University of the Sorbonne in Paris, presented a report Thursday to the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee saying a five-year moratorium on biofuel production would allow time for new technologies for using agricultural byproducts instead of food itself.

Researchers are looking at crop residues such as corn cobs, rice husks and banana leaves, he said. "The cultivation of Jatropha Curcas, a shrub that produces large oil-bearing seeds, appears to offer a good solution as it can be grown in arid lands that are not normally suitable for food crops," he said.

PlanetArk 29 Oct 07
UN Food Expert Seeks 5-Year Moratorium on Biofuels
Story by Claudia Parsons

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food called on Friday for a five-year moratorium on biofuels, saying it was a "crime against humanity" to convert food crops to fuel.

Biofuels are driving up food prices at a time when there are 854 million hungry people in the world and every five seconds a child under 10 dies from hunger or disease related to malnutrition, Jean Ziegler said.

Fears over climate change have boosted the demand for alternative fuels, but the rise of biofuel has been criticized by some who say it squeezes land needed for food.

Ziegler said cereals prices had already soared, putting pressure on African states that have to import food.

"It's a crime against humanity to convert agriculturally productive soil into soil which is producing food stuff which will be burned into biofuel," he told a news conference.

Ziegler, an independent expert who reports to the UN Commission on Human Rights, conceded his call was a tall order. But he said that since the main countries leading the biofuels revolution -- the United States and Brazil -- were democracies, public opinion could lead to a change in policy.

A moratorium would allow scientists to develop ways to make biofuels from other crops, without diverting land from food production, he said, such as a pilot project in India using trees planted in arid areas unsuitable for food crops.

"The scientific world is progressing very quickly, in five years it will be possible to produce biofuel and biodiesel from agricultural waste," he said.

"There is hope in the scientific process. What has to be stopped is the transformation (of food crops) now, to stop the growing catastrophe of the massacre of hunger in the world."

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization has taken a more cautious stance on biofuels, warning about rising commodity prices but also suggesting bioenergy could be an opportunity for some developing countries, and could provide power in rural areas that lack electricity.

Ziegler said famine and chronic hunger were driving many in sub-Saharan Africa to risk their lives on rickety boats bound for Europe. He criticized European governments for choosing a "military" response rather than helping refugees.

"The EU is creating hunger in Africa through agricultural dumping," he said. "Agricultural products from Europe are exported to Africa through subsidies and the price is very low, much lower than African products on the African market."

He called for the amendment of a 1951 UN convention granting refugee status only to people fleeing racial, political or religious persecution. "I'm asking that a new human right be created in favor of these people," he said.

"Refugees from hunger, they don't have any international protection, so we have to create it."

Related articles on Green energy
about the site | email ria
  News articles are reproduced for non-profit educational purposes.

website©ria tan 2003 www.wildsingapore.com