UN Expert Seeks to Halt Biofuel Output
By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press Writer
Oct 26th, 2007 | UNITED NATIONS -- 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
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.
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.
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