Blog about the upcoming food shortage crisis

Everybody throws stones at the prophet, but when the crisis comes they yell: “Why nobody warned us?”

UN chief calls for review of biofuels policy

· Ban Ki-moon speaks out amid global food shortage
· 33 countries facing unrest as families go hungry

* Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
* The Guardian,
* Saturday April 5 2008
* Article history

About this article
This article appeared in the Guardian on Saturday April 05 2008 on p16 of the International section. It was last updated at 00:05 on April 05 2008.

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has called for a comprehensive review of the policy on biofuels as a crisis in global food prices – partly caused by the increasing use of crops for energy generation – threatens to trigger global instability.

“We need to be concerned about the possibility of taking land or replacing arable land because of these biofuels,” Ban told the Guardian in Bucharest while attending this week’s Nato summit. But he added: “While I am very much conscious and aware of these problems, at the same time you need to constantly look at having creative sources of energy, including biofuels. Therefore, at this time, just criticising biofuel may not be a good solution. I would urge we need to address these issues in a comprehensive manner.”

Climate change has been a priority for Ban since he took over from Kofi Annan, and he has embraced the potential of biofuels, derived from plants, as a long-term substitute for fossil fuels. But as food prices have soared – driven by rising demand, high fuel costs, and climate change – the cultivation of biofuels has come under fire for diverting fertile land from food production.

Some of the loudest criticism has come from within UN food agencies, which are struggling to keep up with commodity prices. Last month the World Food Programme issued an emergency $500m appeal to donors to help it meet its existing commitments to the world’s hungry.

WFP officials say 33 countries in Asia and Africa face political instability as the urban poor struggle to feed their families.

There are also mounting concerns over the benefits of biofuels to the environment. They generally burn cleaner than fossil fuels, but fuels such as grain-based ethanol are energy-intensive to produce, and tropical rainforests have been cleared to produce palm oil for use as a fuel.

The role of biofuels is under review in Britain pending an inquiry into the indirect impact of their cultivation by the Renewable Fuels Agency.

Against this backdrop some senior UN officials are pushing for a change of policy, and attack Ban in private. “Ban is just out of touch,” one said. “He doesn’t know what is really going on in our agencies.”

The UN’s own special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, called biofuels “a crime against humanity”, and called for a five-year moratorium.

Ban rejected that proposal. “At this time I wouldn’t make any definitive judgment or definitive plans, in particular vis-à-vis these biofuels,” he said. “I know there are some concerns raised by certain quarters about biofuels. But biofuels are a renewable source of energy when we are experiencing extreme difficulties [with] resources.”

But Ban conceded that there was a food supply problem and said the primary Millenium Development Goal of halving global hunger by 2015 looked harder to reach than ever. “This steeply rising food price is a new phenomenon,” he said. “We have only seven years left to meet the target of 2015. This is very serious.”

He said he was overseeing a multi-agency investigation of the issue involving the UN Energy Programme, the UN Development Programme, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the World Food Programme. “They are all working on this issue,” the secretary-general said.



April 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Todays pain and hunger

Guardian has released an article devoted to the food shortage crisis. In it John Vidal the environment editor places a considerable level of blame on the Western countries, which since 2006 diverted 20% of USA grain production to the biofuels.

Africa is the worst hit by the crisis as it imports 40% of its food. Food riots sparkle across 33 countries where people are protesting against rising food prices. The situation is astounding: food is on the shelves but people could not afford it.

In the desperate attempts to easen food crisis governments are removing duties on food and release taxes, however farmers are reluctant to sell, as they expect grain prices to hit $ 1000 a ton.

Full article is here.

The assuring new come from Phillipines where the government has allocated P47 billion in order to help to easen the crisis. “The multi-billion package had been clustered into six areas namely fertilizer, irrigation, extension and education, loans and insurance, dryers, and seeds (FIELDS). ”

Hopefully the money will be used effectively and help to solve the problem in Phillipines, which are hit  by the decision of Vietnam to decrease the food exports. Read here.

Finally we have a bad news: Haitans killed in the food riots – here. And US governement deciding to submit and loosen cloned food rules – here.

April 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment