Monday 29th April 2013: Half the world’s hungry — 441 million people — could eat for a year on the amount of food that G8 countries burn in their petrol tanks as biofuels, ActionAid said today.
New data, published today by the anti-poverty agency, reveals that nearly nine billion litres of biofuels are used annually to fuel cars in the world’s wealthiest countries. This equates to the yearly amount of food needed to feed half of the world’s 870 million people who live in hunger.
The report also highlights that six million hectares of land in sub-Saharan Africa (equivalent to almost half the area of England ) have been taken over by European companies to grow biofuel crops. UK companies account for a disproportionately high amount — one-third — of that land (two million hectares).
Anders Dahlbeck, Policy Adviser at ActionAidUK, said: “Can we really justify using food to fuel our cars while one in eight people are going hungry?
“If the world’s most powerful nations are serious about tackling world hunger, they must first address their own biofuel use. Their policies have created a demand for the worst kinds of biofuels that push up food prices and are produced from crops that grow on land which should be used for food.”
ActionAid’s database of European biofuel company activities in Africa confirms the significant impact European biofuel policies are having on the distribution of land and land rights in developing countries. With 98 documented biofuel projects covering 6 million hectares, the biggest investors of biofuels in Sub-Saharan Africa are from the UK (30 projects), Italy (18) and Germany (8) – and the total number of European biofuel projects (including Norway and Switzerland) is 98.
Dahlbeck continued: “The G8 meets in the UK later this summer. David Cameron has committed to put the causes of global hunger high on the political agenda during his presidency. This is an important opportunity for him to show leadership and urge other countries to acknowledge and address the impact that biofuels have on hunger.”
Official policies around the world have created enormous demand for biofuels because it was hoped they would be ‘greener’ than burning fossil fuels. But as well as being discredited environmentally, biofuels have become a major driver of world hunger as crops are diverted away from food production to produce fuel. As massive tracts of land are acquired or grabbed to grow biofuel crops instead of food, families are left without land to feed themselves or to grow crops to sell and support themselves.
Dahlbeck added: “What may originally have been a well-intentioned policy to make our transport fuels greener has turned out to be disastrous for global hunger. It has led to the diversion of land use and, in a further irony, may be worsening global warming as many biofuels increase greenhouse gas emissions.”
ActionAid’s Food not Fuel week takes place from Monday 29th April – Sunday 5th May to highlight the absurdity of using food as fuel. ActionAid is a member of the Enough Food IF campaign, a coalition of more than 100 charities which, in the year that the UK hosts June’s summit of G8 nations, are joining ActionAid in calling for David Cameron to take a lead on this issue.