Things are really hotting up in the run up to a crucial vote this Wednesday when MEPs across Europe could vote to cap the proportion of biofuels that compete with food. In all the time I’ve worked at ActionAid, I’ve never seen this level of interest, or support for our position, which gives me real hope MEPs will vote for Food not Fuel!
ActionAid is calling for a cap on biofuels that compete with food because biofuels drive hunger by taking food out of the food system – each year Europe burns enough food to feed over 100 million people – fuelling food price rises and land grabs.
Last week ActionAid UK volunteers joined campaigners from across Europe to take the call for Food not Fuel to MEPs in Brussels. On top of two days of frenetic activity lobbying their MEPs, Brussels lamp posts were covered with posters demanding Food not Fuel and our stunt outside the Parliament (filling a mini with campaigners dressed in giant corn cob costumes, as you do!) told our simple message: "Food should be used to feed people, not fill cars".
And there’s a real biofuels buzz in the media – the Independent covered our report on a biofuel plantation driving hunger in Sierra Leone, the Guardian warns that palm oil use now accounts for 20% of biodiesel used in Europe, and most strikingly, new research from the JRC, the EU’s own scientific research laboratory shows that Brussels biofuels policy will lead to food prices of up to 50% in Europe and a letter in the Guardian from the CEOs of charities including ActionAid calls on the UK government and MEPs to support the lowest possible cap.
So where are we at? So far the Greens are taking the strongest position - UK Green MEPs Keith Taylor and Jean Lambert are supporting an amendment shunning the use of food crops for fuel altogether. In the words of Keith Taylor “To put it simply, I think that productive land should be used to feed people, not to feed the rich world's addiction to driving”.
The Labour group so far are supporting a 5.5% cap on the proportion of food based biofuels, which whilst not as low as we are calling for, is better than the Lib Dem position who currently plan to support a cap at 6%. We’re waiting to hear what the Conservatives plan to vote for. But MEPs can still choose to vote according to their conscience rather than party lines.
The MEPs we met last week said they'd really noticed and were listening to the public pressure on this issue. It’s not too late to make a difference, you've still got a few days to email your MEPs to demand they vote for Food not Fuel.