While our national media competed to publish the silliest items of the holiday season, two stories were developing on either side of the Atlantic which may ultimately have a major impact on world hunger.
Firstly, a devastating drought in the heart of America’s corn-belt ruined much of this summer’s harvest. Because the USA’s ethanol mandates require that a large, fixed amount of the country’s corn crop is diverted to make fuel, regardless of harvest size, there was little left for food or feed. Consequently, corn prices rocketed. The much wider effects are now being felt around the world, as farmers are forced to spend far more to feed their livestock. And this in turn means shoppers having to pay higher prices in the supermarket.
But the good news is that this has triggered calls from livestock farmers as well as internationally from the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation for the USA to waive its ethanol mandates and free up corn for the food chain. For the first time those in the corridors of power are questioning America’s shortsighted biofuel policies and the issue is now being publicly debated and reported worldwide. Talk of waivers has rattled the big biofuel players so much that they have formed a coalition to try and shut down the debate.
Is the tide turning for biofuels?
Meanwhile, in Europe, a growing body of evidence supporting claims that biofuels are not an answer to climate change and showing that they are a driver for world hunger has prompted the EU to propose a cap on crop-based biofuels. This has been welcomed by anti-poverty groups and livestock farming organisations including the British Poultry Council who are calling for biofuel mandates to be dropped. The proposal will be put out for negotiation later this month.
For the sake of the world’s poorest and hungriest, let’s hope that these winds of change in the US and Europe are the start of something stronger. On World Food Day, France, which has called a G20 agricultural ministers’ meeting in Rome will be pushing for a global freeze on biofuels from food crops. And looking to the future, it’s important that in all the other negotiations and meetings coming up, our governments stand up to the big corporates and put a stop to crops being used for fuel.
Biofuel mandates must end.