According to the World Bank’s top economist, Don Mitchell, biofuels had been responsible for three-quarters of the 140 per cent rise in world food prices between 2002 and 2008. It was this that last October prompted Jean Ziegler, the UN’s “special rapporteur on the right to food”, to comment that biofuels could only bring “more hunger to the poor people of the world” and were a “crime against humanity”.
Yellow peril: while Britain’s farmers are encouraged to turn their fields over to rapeseed for biofuels, the world food crisis has driven people in Ethiopia to the brink of starvation
Rarely in political history can there have been such a rapid and dramatic reversal of a received wisdom as we have seen in the past 18 months over biofuels – the cropping of living plants, such as soya beans, wheat and sugar cane, to generate energy.
Two years ago biofuels were still being hailed as a dream solution to what was seen as one of the most urgent problems confronting mankind – our dependence on fossil fuels, which are not only finite but seemed to be threatening the world with the catastrophe of global warming.