BRASILIA, Brazil, APRIL 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See is asking for measures to keep the production of biofuels from bringing about increased food prices to the point of threatening starvation in many countries.
Monsignor Renato Volante, the permanent observer of the Holy See at the Rome-based U.N. Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO), participated in the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, which was held in Brasilia, Brazil, April 17-18.
Monsignor Volante proposed that the production of biofuels should not bring about a decrease in the production of agricultural products destined for the food market.
Biofuels are energy sources produced from a variety of different plants or plant products. Many developed countries have begun subsidizing the production of biofuels, which has resulted in decreased production of typical plant foods.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged today a coordinated effort to face the steeply rising price of food, which he said has developed into a “real global crisis.” He said some 100 million of the world’s poor now need aid to be able to buy food. Riots have broken out in some countries, such as Haiti, over the increased prices.
A member of the U.N. World Food Program called the phenomenon a “silent tsunami.”
Monsignor Volante acknowledged that the use of agricultural products in the production of biofuels “can represent an opportunity for the protection of the environment and biodiversity.”
Nevertheless, he said this tendency is “indicated today as the primary cause for the unprecedented increase of prices compared to a decade ago, as well as a rapid change in the use of agricultural terrain submitted to intense cultivation that weakens it.”
“All of this has a worldwide impact,” Monsignor Volante added, “which, though it presents certain advantages for agricultural producers, in fact is causing negative consequences to the poverty levels in areas dependent upon the importation of food and to the conservation of land.”
The Holy See representative called on states to consider options, keeping in mind the “essential objective” of protecting and ensuring the right to food.
It is not an option, he said, to “diminish the quantity of agricultural products that must be introduced into the food market or of keeping them reserved for emergencies that could come to pass, in favor of other ends, even if acceptable ones, that do not satisfy a fundamental right, such as the right to food.”