Growing demand for biofuel is a threat to food security
His argument is simple: people would go hungry, even if no biofuel was produced from now on. And thus, nothing should change. European law-makers should know better.
Whilst demand for biofuel is not the only reason for high and volatile food prices or for large-scale land acquisitions, it is a major factor driving both. Recent ActionAid research shows that, between 2009 and 2013, 98 European companies took over 6 million hectares of land in sub-Saharan Africa in order to grow biofuel crops. The report also estimated that European Union biofuel mandates alone could push up the price of some foods by as much as 36% by 2020. In the developing world, particularly in net importing countries, where people spend on average 60% of their income on food, even small price changes make all the difference. This is something industry is not so quick to mention.
Just because there are other factors involved in hunger does not mean we should not try to tackle one problem that can easily be resolved. By adapting an EU energy policy that is fundamentally incoherent with EU development policy, we can make a serious contribution to tackling hunger.
This problem needs to be addressed in the coming months of negotiations on EU biofuel reform in the European Parliament and among EU member states. Last week’s decision by all parties sitting in the Parliament’s industry, research and energy committee (ITRE), with the exception of the Greens, to accept a compromise package that weakens the European Commission’s proposal is cause for serious concern.
The issue will go to the environment committee next week and to the full Parliament in September. The Commission has suggested that no more than 5% of fuel should come from crops that would be used for food, down from 10%. The Commission’s proposal should be adopted, and strengthened; and all targets and subsidies for all biofuel that compete with food for crops, land and water should be phased out by 2020. Hunger has many causes, but, with this vote, MEPs have the power to make a difference to some of the almost 870 million people that go hungry every day according to the UN.