Feb 17, 2010

Biofuels: Driving over the hungry

John Vidal is an intrepid journalist, always on the environment trail. I have admired his work, and in fact I feel he has single-handedly brought environment into the centrestage of the public discourse in the North.

In the morning today, when I opened my newspapers I was drawn to a  news report "100 million to go hungry to drive Europe's cars" reproduced from The Guardian. It didn't take me a minute to realise that the byline couldn't be of anyone else but John Vidal. I wasn't wrong.

John Vidal' report is based on a study released by ActionAid yesterday in London. If you remember I had mentioned about this study in my blog yesterday.

Interestingly, New Delhi also hosted the 7th International Biofuels conference yesterday (coinciding with the release of ActionAid's report in London). I didn't know about this conference till I read a detailed report on the d-sector website. As expected, this international conference pleaded to implement biofuels programme urgently. This is nothing new. Whenever businessmen and academicians meet, they only call for policies and decisions that hasten the demise of Planet Earth !

In the evening yesterday, I also attended a roundtable with a Dutch team on how to accelerate trade in agriculture between India and the Netherlands. In my brief presentation I did bring up the subject of farm land grab that is taking place in Africa, Latin America and Asia and on the need to understand the implications of such a massive takeover of land (of the size equivalent of Germany) on international trade in agriculture.

Unfortunately, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is not at all concerned about the land grab. Nor is the WTO willing to open up discussion on the massive bailout packages that have been doled out by the OECD countries (estimated to be around $ 20 trillion) during the economic meltdown and the swing it has provided in favour of the trading companies in the North. The developing countries would be marooned if they do not analyse quickly the implications of the bailout packages before agreeing to complete the unjust Doha Development Round.

I find the G-20 and G-33 countries not even caring to put both these issues on to the negotiating table in WTO. This is not only a reflection of their incompetence but is also indicative of the negotiating-fatigue that has built in over the years. While the developing world simply appears to be tired of the negotiating process, the developed countries are aggressively pushing the trade agenda through the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

Either way, free trade is striking a death knell for the people living in the majority world.

Coming back to the issue of bio-fuels, I am pasting below JohnVidal's news report about hunger and cars. Also, you can read through the report of yesterday's proceedings of the 7th International Biofuels conference beinh held in New Delhi (link provided if you scroll down this post).

100 mllion to go hungry to drive Europe’s cars

By John Vidal

In a federal budget filled with mind-boggling statistics, two numbers stand out as particularly stunning, for the way they may change American politics and American power.

EU companies have taken millions of acres of land out of food production in Africa, central America and Asia to grow biofuels for transport, according to development campaigners.

The consequences of European biofuel targets, said the report by ActionAid, could be up to 100 million more hungry people, increased food prices and landlessness.

The report says the 2008 decision by EU countries to obtain 10 per cent of all transport fuels from biofuels by 2020 is proving disastrous for poor countries. Developing countries are expected to grow nearly two-thirds of the jatropha, sugar cane and palm oil crops that are mostly used for biofuels.

“To meet the EU 10 per cent target, the total land area directly required to grow industrial biofuels in developing countries could reach 17.5m hectares, over half the size of Italy. Additional land will also be required in developed nations, displacing food and animal feed crops onto land in new areas, often in developing countries,” says the report.

Read the full report:
http://www.hindustantimes.com/rssfeed/europe/100-million-to-go-hungry-to-drive-Europe-s-cars/Article1-509645.aspx

Implement biofuels program swiftly
http://www.d-sector.org/article-det.asp?id=983

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