Stop this agrofuels madness by Jean Ziegler

Burning hundreds of millions of tonnes of staple foods for the production of agrofuels is a crime against humanity. Since 2007, the EU and US governments have given lavish support to agri-businesses to fill car fuel tanks with food – compulsory targets, and tax breaks and subsidies to the tune of billions each year. The result ? Increased hunger, land grabbing, environmental damage, and ultimately hundreds of thousands of lives lost.
The [British Prime Minister / French President / German Chancellor / Polish Minister (or name)] and other EU leaders within a month have an opportunity to intervene to put a halt to this agrofuels idiocy. With one child under ten dying from hunger and related diseases every 5 seconds (according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)), they must do so.
It is ironic that agrofuels are still promoted by some transnational corporations as an ‘eco-friendly’ sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Few but those who directly profit from agrofuels policies like the EU’s 10% target for renewable transport energy, continue to believe there are any environmental or social benefits. The reality, as I document in Betting on famine / Wir lassen sie verhungern / Destruction massive : Géopolitique de la faim, is just another form of reckless exploitation of resources. Producing one litre of agrofuels, for example, requires 2500 litres of water.
[British/French/German/Italian/Polish and] EU policies promoting agrofuels have, since 2008, diverted food crops out of food markets, at the bidding of powerful agribusinesses, in their pursuit of private profit. This use of large quantities of food and commodity crops for relatively small amounts of transport fuel has had three disastrous consequences. First is an increase in world hunger. Almost all agrofuels used in Europe are made from food crops, such as wheat, soy, palm oil, rapeseed and maize, that are essential food sources for a rapidly expanding global population. Europe now burns enough food calories in fuel tanks every year to feed 100 million people. Moreover, prices of vital foodstuffs such as oilseeds are expected to rise by as much as 20%, vegetable oil by up to 36%, and maize by as much as 22% by 2020 due to current EU agrofuels targets (those that are currently being reviewed). If this sounds small, remember that for those in the slums of the world who have very little with which to buy their daily food, this represents absolute disaster.
Second is a massive new demand for land, destroying smallholder farms as well as habitats. Land speculators, hedge funds, and agro-energy companies have been at the forefront of a new global rush for land that has forced hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers off their fields and taken away their livelihoods and water supplies. All too regularly across the world, but above all in Latin America, Africa and Asia, the monopolization of land by transnational agrofuel corporations is accompanied by violence : the victims are native peasants and their families.
Third is environmental devastation. The demand for additional land to accommodate EU agrofuels plans means expanding cropland the size of Ireland – felled forests, plundered peatlands and ploughed-up prairies. Evidence is now increasingly clear that the climate change benefits of most agrofuels are negligible or nil. Through fertiliser use, land clearance, deforestation and displacing other crops, most EU agrofuels are not reducing carbon emissions, as they are subsidised to do, but emitting millions of additional tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Without doubt the consumption of fossil fuels must be rapidly reduced – but solutions lie with the reduction of energy consumption, public transportation and alternative sources of clean energy, not land using agrofuels with so many detrimental consequences.
Enough is enough. It is time to stop this agrofuels madness – procuring large profits to a few transnational corporations whilst causing devastation to the environment and millions of helpless victims. On 12 December, when EU leaders vote in Brussels on the future of this murderous agrofuels policy, they must immediately cancel targets and support for agrofuels that compete with food. Failure to do so will make them an accomplice to a crime against humanity.
*Jean Ziegler was UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food 2000-2008, is currently a member of the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council, and is author of the book Betting on Famine : Why the World Still Goes Hungry (The New Press, New York)/ Wir lassen sie verhungern (Bertelsmann, Münich) / Destruction massive : Géopolitique de la faim (Editions du Seuil, Paris).