While farmers and ranchers wait for the final elements of the 2007 Farm Bill to be resolved controversy continues to surround one element of the measure -- renewable fuels.
The argument over food versus biofuels is not a new one and renewable fuels associations around the world continue to fight bad press.
As prices for food increase across the planet developing nations with a new middle class, but no infrastructure to feed themselves, cry out for more food. The U.N., a champion of food aid programs, has joined those who decry the production of renewable fuels. This newest shot across the bow has not gone unanswered.
Leaders of the world's largest ethanol trade associations responded this week to a United Nations' interim report that claims biofuels production is a "crime against humanity." The report, written by Jean Ziggler, who has been the U.N.'s independent expert on the right to food since the position was created seven years ago, was submitted last August. In the report Ziggler called for a five-year moratorium on all initiatives to develop food-based biofuels and told United Nation' delegates that the "sudden, ill-conceived dash to convert food" into fuels "is a recipe for disaster."
The Washington-based Renewable Fuels Association, the European Bioethanol Fuels Association, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association and the Brazilian Sugar Cane Industry have now jointly responded to Ziggler's claims saying that they were not only "unjustified but also unacceptable." In a three page letter to United Nations, the consortium asked Secretary–General Ban Ki-moon to review the report "with a focus on sound science [and] credible studies" "rather than unsupported assumptions and selected antidotes."
European leaders hope that more than 10% of their fuel needs will come from biofuels by 2020. In the United States, the goal is to increase biofuels production seven fold by 2022. In addition, Brazil, where one third of the world's bioethanol is produced, expects to double its production of in the next ten years.
According to U.N. figures, the number of people suffering from hunger has been rising every year since 1996 and is now 854 million people. Critics believe that turning food into fuel will mean an increase in that figure.
However, in their letter to the United Nations, the group of ethanol associations rebuked those fears sighting Nobel Prize winner Dr, Amartya Sen, who believes that worldwide hunger is not the result of insufficient food production but rather from low income and unemployment.