Crop diversion from food to biofuel undermines food security - Oxfam

04 October 2012 16:47  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--The diversion of crops from food to biofuel is undermining food security, the charity Oxfam said on Thursday.

“Two-thirds of agricultural land deals entered into by foreign investors are in countries with a serious hunger problem. But this does not mean that these land acquisitions will help to tackle the hunger crisis. Based on existing information, more than 60% of foreign land investors in developing countries intend to export everything they produce on the land,” it said.

“Recent evidence suggests two-thirds of global land deals over the past 10 years have been intended to grow crops that can be used for biofuels, such as soy, sugarcane, palm oil and jatropha – equating to an area larger than Madrid given over to such crops every two days,” Oxfam added.

Oxfam said the World Bank, which it believes has a pivotal influence over governments and the private sector, should stop backing land acquisitions immediately in order to stop the “unregulated global land rush.”

The charity has called for a freeze on all lending to projects that concern agricultural large-scale acquisitions for six months, during which the World Bank should review existing investments and involvement with land acquisitions.

Thereafter, Oxfam wants the World Bank to commit to improving its policy and practice surrounding land acquisitions based on the findings of the review.

“In the past the Bank has chosen to freeze lending when poor standards have caused dispossession and suffering. It needs to do so again, in order to play a key role in stopping the global land rush,” Oxfam said.

The European Commission announced plans to limit the use of food crop-based biofuels in September, following outcry from the UN, the International Food Policy Research Institute and Oxfam, over beliefs that these biofuels could contribute to global food price spikes.

"It is wrong to believe that we are pushing food-based biofuels. In our upcoming proposal for new legislation, we do exactly the contrary: We limit them to the current consumption level, that is 5% up to 2020. And the Commission's message for post-2020 is that our clear preference are biofuels produced from non-food feedstocks, like waste or agricultural residues such as straw," said European Commissioners for energy and climate action Gunther Oettinger and Connie Hedegaard in a joint statement.

"These new type of biofuels are not in competition with food, nor do they require additional land. We are  pushing biofuels that help us cutting substantial CO2-emissions, do not compete with food and are sustainable and green at the same time,'' they added.

($1 = €0.78)

By: Sarah Trinder
+44 20 8652 3214

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