THE BLOG

The G8: Burning Enough Food to Feed Half the World's Hungry

29/04/2013 13:11 BST | Updated 28/06/2013 10:12 BST

Every night, one in eight people go to bed hungry. It's simply crazy that we are burning food for fuel in our petrol tanks whilst this persists - something that I have blogged about before, including whilst seeing the impact for myself in Tanzania.

Over in Brussels, a heated debate is underway about a sensible new proposal to cap the amount of food that is burnt as biofuels. But so far, a number of European energy and environment ministers including UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey cannot see the need for such a cap.

Seven weeks today, G8 leaders will gather in Northern Ireland with David Cameron as their host. As they tuck into their haute cuisine, they should ponder the fact that the amount of food burned as biofuels in the petrol tanks of their combined nations could feed 441 million people.

That's about half of the world's 870 million hungry people.

This statistic is revealed today in ActionAid's new report, Fuelling Hunger.

David Cameron has this year pledged to "lead the way in the battle against hunger". Together with some 180 other anti-poverty organisations in the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign, ActionAid is doing all that we can to ensure that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues live up to that promise.

They have two key upcoming opportunities. One is to use the UK presidency of the G8 to ensure that the world's richest countries address the damaging effects of biofuels on food security. The PM will be hosting a G8-linked event on hunger on 8 June which is the perfect moment to recognise and resolve to act on the use of biofuels. DFID Minister Lynne Featherstone recently said that the event would raise the issue - but how it will do this remains to be seen.

The other is to take meaningful action in the EU by supporting the proposed cap on the use of food for fuel in the ongoing negotiations over the future of biofuels policy. Giving evidence to the House of Commons International Development Committee's inquiry into global food security a few days ago, Transport Minister Norman Baker said that the UK is not currently minded to do this. On 6 June Ed Davey will vote on the matter at the EU Energy Council.

Further evidence of the need for a shift in the Government's position comes in ActionAid's research which reveals that 6 million hectares in sub-Saharan Africa - that's about half the area of England - are now under the control of European biofuels companies. And a disproportionate number of these projects - 30 - are run by UK businesses. Many of these land "investments" to grow biofuels are in countries with some of the highest levels of food security including Senegal, Zambia and Madagascar.

What may originally have been a well-intentioned policy to make our transport fuels greener has turned out to be disastrous for global hunger. Ordinary people's land is taken away to grow fuel for our cars and as an added irony, may be worsening global warming because biofuels increase greenhouse gas emissions.

It's not good enough for ministers to say that they are serious about tackling hunger if their actions continue to show otherwise. Instead, they must look at the evidence and amend biofuel policies accordingly.

It's time for David Cameron to step up to the plate and lead the G8 and EU to prioritise Food Not Fuel.