Rome: Biofuels, once seen as a key factor in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, are behind the current global food crisis, major oil producers and consumers charged at an energy forum here today.
“A conflict is emerging between foodstuffs and fuel with disastrous social conflicts and dubious environmental results,” outgoing Italian prime minister Romano Prodi told the International Energy Forum here as rising food prices worldwide raise the spectre of famine in some countries.
“We have to examine very closely subsidy policies so as to avoid distortions in the allocation of resources,” Prodi insisted.
Agricultural prices were not only being driven by rising demand but also by increased cultivation of biofuels, “creating strong tensions in a number of countries,” he said.
Biofuels were developed as part of plans to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, held responsible for global warming, but since they take up land that would otherwise be used for food production, they have been increasingly blamed for soaring food prices.
Qatari energy minister, Abdullah bin Hamad al Attiyah said the world would have to choose “what its priority is going to be -- driving or eating.”
He rejected suggestions that high oil prices were behind the food crisis. “It’s not oil that should be questioned, it’s biofuels, which are at the root of the problem,” al Attiyah said.
“Even big rice exporters such as India, Bangladesh and Thailand are in the process of reducing their exports,” he said.