Driven by the United States, global demand for food-based biofuels such as corn ethanol is unsustainable, threatening the food security of some of the world’s poorest people and endangering already strained land and water resources, according to a new research published this week.
“” (pdf) was issued Tuesday by ActionAid USA, an international non-profit working to end poverty around the world. The study charges that “[b]y creating an inflexible and growing demand, mandates drive up the cost and increase the volatility of food prices.”
Government mandates to increase or maintain levels of biofuel blends in transportation fuel, with the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard and the E.U. Renewable Energy Directive being the most prominent examples, encourage biofuel production and consumption worldwide. The United States and the European Union are projected to account for at least 60 percent of global biofuel consumption in 2025.
“Farmers in poor communities around the world are being kicked off their land to produce fuel for our cars and trucks. No one should go hungry to fill our gas tanks.”
—Kelly Stone, ActionAid USA
Furthermore, states the report, “Demand for biofuels is also associated with land grabs in developing countries, where smallholder farmers growing food for their families are forced off their land to make way for energy crops for export.”
In Guatemala, for instance, subsistence farmers are being forced to give up cultivation of multiple food crops for local consumption in order to cultivate just one crop that will likely be exported and used for fuel instead of food. Monoculture crops such as sugarcane or palm—both used as feedstocks for biofuels production—now take up 14 percent of the country’s land, while small land holders use only 12 percent.
“In a country where half of children under the age of five are malnourished, more land is devoted to export crops than sustenance farming,” reads the report.
Kelly Stone, biofuels policy analyst at ActionAid, painted a stark picture: “Farmers in poor communities around the world are being kicked off their land to produce fuel for our cars and trucks,” she said. “No one should go hungry to fill our gas tanks.”
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