NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 15, 2007

Diverting sugar and maize for biofuels could lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths from hunger worldwide, says Jean Ziegler, a United Nations' food envoy.

According to Ziegler:

  • More and more sugar cane plantations in northern and eastern Brazil are being used for biofuels, leaving less land for subsistence farmers.
  • In some regions of Mexico, the price of maize rose by 16 percent last year, because of rising demand for use in biofuels.

Unfortunately, the problem is only expected to get worse, she says:

  • Some 854 million people worldwide -- or one in six -- suffer from hunger, according to the sociologist and former Swiss parliamentarian, who cited U.N. figures.
  • Famine and chronic hunger were driving many in sub-Saharan Africa to risk their lives on rickety boats bound for Europe, often Spain's Canary Islands or Lampedusa, Italy.
  • Overall, an estimated 2 million people try to enter the European Union (EU) illegally every year and about 2,000 of them drown in the Mediterranean Sea.

"I can understand the Brazilian and Mexican policies which as very indebted countries want to earn hard currency .... But from the point of view of the right to food, which must be the decisive one, it is a catastrophe," Ziegler said.

Source: Stephanie Nebehay, "Biofuels could lead to mass hunger deaths -UN envoy," Reuters, June 14, 2007.

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