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Agrofuels Violate the Human Right to Food

November 2007

Over the last few months, we’ve reported on the damaging impact of agrofuels on human rights, the environment and food security.

Increasingly, we are not alone in our criticism. Environmental groups are raising concerns about agribusiness’ influence in agrofuels development (see Rainforest Action Network’s Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign) and decrying the U.S. Energy Bill for setting agrofuel targets to the detriment of the environment and rural communities (see “Congress Urged to Ditch Energy Bill Renewable Fuel Standard“). And now the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food is weighing in saying that agrofuels are a crime against humanity.

In a report released in October, 2007 (“The Impact of Biofuels on the Right to Food” (PDF), the Special Rapporteur Jean Ziegler explains, “The sudden, ill-conceived, rush to convert food – such as maize, wheat, sugar and palm oil – into fuels is a recipe for disaster. There are serious risks of creating a battle between food and fuel that will leave the poor and hungry in developing countries at the mercy of rapidly rising prices for food, land and water.”

The report shows that already the choice of fuel over food is driving policy decisions and resulting in increased hunger. The prospect of converting commodities like corn into energy brought increased corn prices in Mexico earlier this year. And the promise of increased ethanol production in Brazil is squashing the possibility for 6 million landless people to obtain land and produce food for their families.

The report goes into some depth about the global consequences of agrofuels. These include:

  • increases in food prices;
  • increased competition over land and forests;
  • slave labor in agrofuel fields; and
  • diversion of water into agrofuel production (rather than food production).

Following the release of the report, Ziegler called for a five-year moratorium on agrofuels (see “UN Rapporteur Calls for Biofuel Moratorium“). He’s joined with a platform of European Union social justice and environmental organizations that have called for a moratorium on agrofuel targets in the EU. Ziegler’s believes that within five years there may be advances in sustainable energy that would make the current agrofuels model obsolete and we could avoid doing a lot of harm in the meantime.

We welcome the latest wave of critics and applaud Ziegler for his leadership.

It’s our hope that his message begins to resonate and we can get on with the business of finding real solutions to our global climate change problem and finally make a real commitment to feeding the world.


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