CFS governments must face up to global thirst for biofuels which spell hunger for millions

Published: 3rd October 2013

Governments must put people’s right to food before short term commercial interests, said Oxfam before the opening of the Committee on Food Security’s annual meeting in Rome (7 October). The international agency is calling for Governments to ensure that biofuel policies do not force poor farmers off their land and fuel food price spikes.

The CFS meeting is the first UN forum to discuss the issue of biofuels in depth. The aim will be to agree collective action to ensure that policies, operations and investments in biofuels do not lead to land-grabs and food prices spikes. The CFS is the center of the global governance on food and nutrition security and includes all governments, civil society, international organizations and the private sector. Its 40th annual meeting will run from 7 - 11 October.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organizations ministerial meeting, taking place during the CFS, is an opportunity for governments to show leadership and commit to phase out support for biofuels that have negative impacts on people’s food security and livelihoods.

"The evidence is clear"

Luca Chinotti, Oxfam food and agriculture advisor said:

“The evidence is clear. Europe and the US in particular have helped spark a global rush for biofuels that is driving poor families off their land and fueling food price rises, while big business piles up the profit.”

It is estimated that by 2020, the EU’s biofuel policies alone could push up vegetable oil prices by up to 36 percent, maize by up to 22 percent and sugar by up to 21 percent. While land used to power European cars with biofuels for one year could produce enough wheat and maize to feed 127 million people.

“The CFS offers a unique opportunity for countries to go beyond short term economic interests and put food and people first,” said Chinotti. “Governments need to decide whether to put the interest of the biofuel industry first or listen to civil society, international organizations such as FAO, IFAD, WFP and the World Bank as well as the major food companies who are calling for a radical change in biofuel policies.

Time-bound commitments

“Governments should agree to eliminate all mandates, tariffs and subsidies on biofuels that have negative impacts on food security by driving food price volatility and land grabbing.”

Oxfam is also calling governments to take specific time-bound commitments towards the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Tenure Governance (VGGT) during the CFS meeting. The Voluntary Guidelines were agreed by the governments at the CFS in May 2012 at the end of a negotiation process involving also civil society, international organizations and the private sector. If implemented, they will contribute to ensure small scale food producers have access to and control over land and other natural resources.

The CFS also provides the opportunity to make progress in ensuring that investments in agriculture benefit smallholders and move toward the development of principles of responsible agricultural investment. Oxfam is calling on Member States should recognize the critical role of smallholders as the main investors in agriculture and commit to tackle constraints faced by smallholder producers, notably by developing country-owned visions of smallholder agriculture.

Europe and the US in particular have helped spark a global rush for biofuels that is driving poor families off their land and fueling food price rises.
Luca Chinotti
Oxfam food and agriculture advisor

Notes to editors

Read more: What are biofuels? What’s the problem with them? This Q&A can help clear things up.

More on food price spikes.

Contact information

Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German. For interviews or further information, please contact: 

  • Maria Teresa Alvino : +39.348.9803541