The United States and the European Union have taken a “criminal path” by contributing to an explosive rise in global food prices through using food crops to produce biofuels, according to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
Speaking at a press conference today in Geneva, Jean Ziegler said that fuel policies pursued by the US and the EU were one of the main causes of the current worldwide food crisis. Mr. Ziegler said that last year the US used a third of its corn crop to create biofuels, while the European Union is planning to have 10 per cent of its petrol supplied by biofuels. The Special Rapporteur has called for a five-year moratorium on the production of biofuels.
Mr. Ziegler also said that speculation on international markets was behind 30 per cent of the increase in food prices. He said that companies such as Cargill, which controls a quarter of all cereal production, have enormous power over the market. He added that hedge funds are also making huge profits from raw materials markets, and called for new financial regulations to prevent such speculation.
The Special Rapporteur warned of worsening food riots and a “horrifying” increase in deaths by starvation before reforms could take effect. Mr. Ziegler was speaking before a meeting today in Bern, Switzerland, between Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the heads of key UN agencies.
Meanwhile, speaking in Rome today, a nutritionist with the UN World Food Programme (WFP), said that “global price rises mean that food is literally being taken out of the mouths of hungry children whose parents can no longer afford to feed them.”
Andrew Thorne-Lyman said that even temporarily depriving children of the nutrients they need to grow and thrive can leave permanent scars in terms of stunting their physical growth and intellectual potential. He said that families in the developing world are “finding their buying power has been slashed by food price rises, meaning that they can buy less food or food which isn’t as nutritious.”