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Biofuels helping make nearly one billion people go hungry, finds report

Soybeanvarieties.jpgAt nearly one billion, the number of hungry and undernourished people in the world remains “unacceptably” high according to the United Nations’ agricultural agencies in a report published yesterday. (Reuters, Financial Times)

The finding in the State of Food Insecurity in the World report comes despite a drop in the number of people going hungry in 2010 for the first time since 1995 due to economic recovery and food prices remaining below peak levels.

Rising demand for food, more frequent extreme weather and growth of the biofuel industry will keep food prices relatively high and will add to the food insecurity of many developing countries in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa, warns the report from the Food and Agricultural Organisation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme.

Food crises such as the current famine in the Horn of Africa are challenging the U.N. goal of cutting the number of hungry people to roughly 600 million people by 2015, it says.

Humanitarian and development aid to food insecure nations needs reforming, including increasing support for agriculture which provides one third of these nations’ gross domestic product. Funding for agriculture makes up only 7% of overseas development aid, the report says.

The findings are echoed in a report published today by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), based in Washington DC. Maximo Torero, one of the report’s authors, says policymakers must “curtail biofuels subsidies” and “discourage the use of food crops in biofuel production” to limit food price volatility.

Governments should also “invest in climate change adaption and mitigation and safeguard smallholder farmers against extreme weather shocks”, he says

Picture licensed by Agricultural Research Service under creative commons.

Soybeans are used to make biofuels


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