The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation has come out against the statement yesterday by UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, that biofuels are a crime against humanity, and is quoted by Biopact as saying:
We regret the report of the Special Rapporteur has taken a very complex issue, with many positive dimensions as well as negative ones, and characterised it as a ‘crime against humanity’.
FAO strongly feels that food security and environmental considerations must be fully addressed before making investments or policy decisions, and we are actively working to ensure this happens.
However, a moratorium that ignores the potential of biofuels to support rural development and assist the economies of developing countries would not, in our view, be a constructive approach to this topic.
Distributing food fairly is of vital importance, as is using non-food crops where possible for biofuels and, fundamentally, greater fuel efficiency . Zeigler’s comments are certainly eye- catching and it is surprising that they did not generate bigger headlines than they did. It is disappointing that he seems not to have discussed the ability of biofuel producers to sell those crops for cash enabling them to buy food, rather than growing it themselves. But I guess, in fairness, it can be difficult to stay detached when you see people starving.
There is considerable scope for producing biofuels from non-food crops in the developing world, but there are hurdles. Aside from tariff barriers and entrenched political positions in the developed world, there is also the danger of corruption in the developed and developing world.
This could see funds for improving infrastructure such as food distribution or biofuel production ending up in the pockets of people who should know better.