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Gallagher Report: Biofuels Drive People To Hunger

The Gallagher report: biofuels are driving people into hunger

As the British government announces Professor Ed Gallagher's review of biofuels, ActionAid raises concerns over both first generation biofuels made from food crops such as corn or sugarcane and second generation biofuels, made from non-food crops such as jatropha, a toxic hedging shrub.

ActionAid says that while most types of biofuels will not help to reduce climate change, they will make life harder for millions of poor people around the world.

Dr Claire Melamed, ActionAid head of policy said: 'The voracious demand for biofuels is largely a consequence of the targets and subsidies that the rich world has established to ensure its own energy security.

"Grain and vegetable oil are being diverted to biofuels, leading to scarcity and rocketing food prices. In the developing world, land on which farmers and pastoralists depend is being converted into biofuel monocultures.

"Rural communities are losing their land and risk being driven into destitution and starvation."

Biofuel subsidies to US and EU farmers are worth between US$16 and US$18bn a year, four times a much as all agricultural aid to the developing world. The charity calculates that 260 million people are at risk of hunger as a direct result of the rich world's drive to grow alternative fuels for cars and trucks

Dr Melamed concluded: "The world needs to start again and plan properly. If biofuels are to play a part in a renewable energy strategy they must be seen to benefit the environment and not be of harm to poor farmers and consumers in the developing world."

ActionAid is calling for an immediate moratorium on biofuel developments on arable land and for Europe and the US to remove the subsidies and targets that are driving the production of biofuels from food crops.

What biofuels have meant to a village in Ghana

Villagers in northern Ghana are discovering the true cost of biofuel production. This vulnerable community was hit hard in 2007 when severe drought during the growing season, followed by torrential rain, resulted in a negligible harvest and a lack of seed stock. They have since survived by selling their animals and making charcoal from wood the women collect.

But as they were planning to prepare their fields for the coming year, they discovered the biggest blow of all - machinery moving onto their land to plough vast areas for a plantation of jatropha, which will be used for biofuels. The biofuels company argues that the land is 'marginal' and 'exhausted'. The farmers insist otherwise - saying they depend on this land for their food and livelihoods.

The company, which was allegedly granted the land by a paramount chief, claims that food crops will be intercropped with jatropha. They promise that the plantation will provide jobs, a school and clinic. The community says that they have received nothing, and that there is hunger in their village


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