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Governments must tackle global thirst for Biofuels, which spell hunger for millions

Posted by Georgette Thomas Oxfam Media officer, Oxford, UK

4th Oct 2013

Aubrey Wade/Oxfam

Governments must put people's right to food before short term commercial interests, said Oxfam before the opening of the Committee on Food Security's (CFS) annual meeting in Rome (7 October).  The international agency is calling for Governments to ensure that biofuel policies do not force poor farmers off their land and fuel food price spikes.

The CFS meeting is the first UN forum to discuss the issue of biofuels in depth. The CFS is the center of the global governance on food and nutrition security and includes all governments, civil society, international organizations and the private sector.

The UN's Food and Agricultural Organisations ministerial meeting, taking place during the CFS, is an opportunity for governments to show leadership and commit to phase out support for biofuels that have negative impacts on people's food security and livelihoods.

It comes as the European Union negotiates whether to limit the amount of biofuels made from food crops. The European Parliament a few weeks ago voted to set the cap at 6% - far above current levels of consumption and if adopted would allow entirely preventable hunger, land-grabbing and environmental destruction to continue. The decision will now go before the European Council, who must agree a lower limit that will stop further increases in the use of food for fuel.

David Taylor, Oxfam Grow policy advisor said; "The ugly reality of biofuels is that they are fuelling higher food prices and forcing people off their land, destroying livelihoods. Short term economical gain for businesses is being prioritised over and above the food security of millions in the developing world."

It is estimated that by 2020, the EU's biofuel policies alone could push up vegetable oil prices by up to 36 percent, maize by up to 22 percent and sugar by up to 21 percent. While land used to power European cars with biofuels for one year could produce enough wheat and maize to feed 127 million people.

"Governments must end the madness of food being used to fuel cars while one in eight people go to bed hungry, and agree to eliminate all mandates, tariffs and subsidies on biofuels that are currently a driver of food insecurity" said Taylor.

Oxfam is also calling on governments to take specific time-bound commitments towards the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Tenure Governance (VGGT) during the CFS meeting. The Voluntary Guidelines were agreed by the governments at the CFS in May 2012 at the end of a negotiation process involving also civil society, international organizations and the private sector.  If implemented, they will contribute to ensure small scale food producers have access to and control over land and other natural resources.

The CFS also provides the opportunity to make progress in ensuring that investments in agriculture benefit smallholders and move toward the development of principles of responsible agricultural investment. Member States should recognize the critical role of smallholders as the main investors in agriculture and commit to tackle constraints faced by smallholder producers, notably by developing country-owned visions of smallholder agriculture.

Note to editors
Contact Georgette Thomas for further information or interviews: / +44 (0)7824 503108Georgette Thomas

Blog post written by Georgette Thomas

Oxfam Media officer, Oxford, UK

More by Georgette Thomas