On UN Day, Remember Biofuels’ Impact on Global Hunger

October 24, 2013

While the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a U.S. policy, the RFS and other first-world biofuels policies have global consequences that can mean life or death for hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Today, U.N. Day, is the perfect time to explore how ethanol mandates that divert food into fuel are “a crime against humanity,” as Jean Ziegler, UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food has stated.

North and South America, Africa and Asia have all experienced the consequences of using food for fuel.

In countries like Tanzania, Cameroon and Ghana with land suitable for biofuels, farmers are being driven off of their land in favor of foreign investors’ ambitions.

For example, in Kisarawe, Tanzania, an 8,000 hectare village forest reserve was given to Sun Biofuels by the district government. Villagers were promised jobs and public infrastructure to compensate for the loss of access to water and forested land. However by 2011, the company ceased operations, leaving behind a destroyed ecosystem, workers sickened by pesticides, and broken promises of community development.

Further, for countries where corn is a staple, diverting 40 percent of the crops from the world’s breadbasket – the U.S. — means inescapable increasing prices. Between 2005 and 2011, the cost of tortillas increased by 69 percent and the cost of the basic food basket for a Mexican family more than doubled.

Just three years ago, one quetzal — about 15 cents — bought eight tortillas; today it buys only four. And eggs have tripled in price because chickens eat corn feed.

According to the New York Times, in Guatemala, a country where most families must spend about two thirds of their income on food, the average person is now hungrier because of biofuel development.

Most recently, Aymane Farid Abu Hadid, minister of agriculture and land reclamation in Egypt said, “The problem of the increase of food prices has been very difficult in Egypt.”

A study by New England Complex Systems Institute said it best: if food prices remain high, there is likely to be persistent and increasing global social disruption.

Our ethanol mandate contributes to global hunger every day. Tell Congress to stop using food for fuel.