October 25, 2007–New York–The link between the expanding agrofuel industry, also known as "biofuels, " and the dangers posed to global food security will move into the spotlight today, with the call by Jean Ziegler, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, for a five-year moratorium on the production of agrofuels. The proposal to be submitted to the UN General Assembly expresses fears that billions of dollars of support for the agrofuel industry will drive up food prices and further limit resources available to combat hunger.
MADRE, whose Food for Life campaign links issues of environmental sustainability and global justice, today stressed that the global push for alternative energy sources must not come at the expense of human rights, particularly the right to food.
Agrofuel production is currently celebrated as one of the best responses to overdependence on finite supplies of polluting fossil fuels. However, reports increasingly indicate that the new focus on agrofuels does more to benefit agribusiness interests than to reduce carbon emissions and stop climate change.
Yifat Susskind, Communications Director of MADRE, said today, "The need for a serious approach to the dangers of climate change as a result of fossil fuel emissions is undeniable. Yet the response to this challenge has been co-opted by agribusiness that sees this global crisis as an opportunity to expand their industry. This approach shows little regard for human rights, protection of the environment, or the imperative to combat hunger."
Ziegler's proposal–to ban the conversion of land for the production of agrofuels–seeks to counter the substantial increase in food prices that has accompanied the demand for agrofuels. Ziegler further encourages using the five-year moratorium to develop "second generation" agrofuels, that will use non-food plants and will not compromise food security.
The effect of these price hikes is already in evidence, particularly in connection with US food aid levels. The primary US program for the delivery of food aid saw a drop in volume of more than 50% between 2000 and 2007, as a result of increasing prices. MADRE also pointed out that this marked decrease in aid reveals a failing in the US system for the delivery of food supplies, which allows only the purchase of food aid from domestic sources. MADRE emphasizes that this measure, designed to protect US producers, drives up transportation costs and limits the availability of food.
More information on agrofuels can be found in the MADRE statement "Feed People, Not Cars: Agrofuels are no Solution to Climate Change, " located here: /index.php?s=4&news=101.
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Victoria Tauli Corpuz is Executive Director of the Tebtebba Foundation (Indigenous Peoples' International Center for Policy Research & Education), which has United Nations ECOSOC NGO consultative status and is based in Baguio City, Philippines. Ms. Tauli Corpuz has served as the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples (UNPFII) from 2005-2007 and was the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations from 1996 to 2003; she is the founder and convener of the Asia Indigenous Women's Network. She has a Nursing degree; is an Indigenous activist who is committed to the recognition, protection, and promotion of Indigenous Peoples' rights worldwide; and has been defending the rights and cultures of Indigenous Peoples for more than 30 years.
Yifat Susskind, MADRE's Communications Director and Coordinator of MADRE's Food for Life Campaign, worked for several years as part of a joint Israeli-Palestinian human rights organization in Jerusalem before joining MADRE. She has written extensively on US foreign policy and women's human rights; her critical analysis has appeared in online and print publications such as TomPaine.com, Foreign Policy in Focus, and The W Effect: Bush's War on Women, published by the Feminist Press in 2004. Ms. Susskind has been featured as a commentator on CNN, National Public Radio, and BBC Radio.