The increasing use of biofuels could drive millions of people in the developing world deeper into poverty and hunger, warns a leading humanitarian organization.
London-based charity Action Aid denounced that vast fields in Africa, South America and India are currently dedicated to the production of biofuel crops such as wheat and corn, instead of food for local communities, leaving thousands at risk of starvation.
Tim Rice, Action Aid’s biofuels advisor and author of a recent report on its impact in the developing world, said:
“As you put more and more maize and wheat into the biofuel chain, food prices are going up. We anticipate that if biofuels continue on their current path to 2020, this could drive hundreds of millions of more people into hunger.”
The activists are also questioning the effectiveness of biofuels to combat climate change. They say fertilizers used to grow the crops release large amounts of nitrous oxide, a gas 300 times stronger than carbon dioxide.
“There are quicker, better and cheaper ways to reduce our fuel consumption than biofuels: reduce consumption, double efficiency of cars and reduce speed limits,” Rice said.
Biofuels are a form of oil produced from plants, vegetable oils and treated waste. Most of the wheat and maize grown across Africa and South America is destined for the European Union, which has set targets for a four-fold increase in the consumption of the green oil by 2020.
Raju Sona, from India, is one of the people Action Aid describes as victims of the “biofuel craze.”
Two years ago, a biofuel company gave Sona jatropha plants for him to grow instead of food.
He was told he would make a profitable business but the yield was too low, leaving him with a field full of useless jatropha saplings and no way to produce food for his family. He has since started growing food again.
“We were buying everything at that time,” Sona said. “Vegetables are very expensive. Now we can save money with all the things we grow – this is good land for growing ginger, onions and garlic.”