26 October 2007 An independent United Nations human rights expert today called for a five-year moratorium on biofuels.
Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, told reporters in New York that converting crops such as maize, wheat and sugar into fuels was driving up the prices of food, land and water.
Noting that the price of wheat has doubled in one year, Mr. Ziegler warned that if the prices of food crops continued to rise, the poorest countries will not be able to import enough food for their people.
While the arguments for biofuels is legitimate in terms of energy efficiency and combating climate change the effect of transforming food crops such as wheat and maize into agricultural fuel is “absolutely catastrophic” for hungry people and will negatively impact the realization of the right to food, he said.
“It is a crime against humanity to convert agricultural productive soil into soil which produces food stuff that will be burned into biofuel.”
Mr. Ziegler argued that biofuels will only lead to further hunger in a world where an estimated 854 million people – 1 out of 6 – already suffer from the scourge; 100,000 people die from hunger or its immediate consequences every day; and every five seconds, a child dies from hunger.
All of this takes place, he added, in a world that already produces enough food to feed every child, woman and man and could feed 12 billion people, double the current world population, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“All causes of hunger are man-made, it’s a problem of access, not overpopulation or underproduction, and can be changed by human decision,” he stated.
Mr. Ziegler also called for measures to protect refugees who flee hunger, famine and starvation in their own countries, and are treated like criminals when they attempt to cross into other countries.
He noted that from 1972 to 2002, the number of gravely undernourished people in Africa increased from 81 million to 202 million, and every day hundreds of Africans “take to the sea” fleeing from hunger.
He called on the UN Human Rights Council “to declare a new human right” to protect those who flee from hunger.
The right to food is defined as “the right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of the people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensures a physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and dignified life free of fear,” Mr. Ziegler explained.
“This human right is gravely violated in many, many parts of the world.”