U.N. Secretary General Wants Brazil to Balance Biofuels and Food Crops

Brazilian cornfield U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon informed he will be discussing how to balance climate change and food security in the development of biofuels when he visits major ethanol producer Brazil in the coming days.

Speaking before leaving on a trip that takes him first to Argentina, Antarctica and Punta Arenas in Chile, Ban said he wanted to see for himself the impact of global warming.

Brazil is a leading force in developing biofuel from crops as an alternative to fossil fuels. Fears about climate change have fueled a boom in biofuels which has diverted some food crops into fuel production, pushing up cereal prices.

Last month, a U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, called for a five-year moratorium on biofuels, saying it was a "crime against humanity" to convert food crops to fuel when nearly a billion people were hungry in the world.

But Ban said alternative energy sources were vital to addressing climate change, which he has made a priority since taking up his post this year.

"The U.N. research report published this year underscored that biofuels (have) greater promise in addressing these global warming issues through low-carbon emissions," Ban said.

"At the same time … it is true that there are some concerns expressed, by specialists or experts, on the possible impact on food security," he said.

"The elimination of extreme poverty should be also a top priority. Therefore, how to reconcile or have some balanced development addressing these issues will be very important."

"I am going to discuss this matter when I visit Brazil, with Brazilian leaders, and look for myself."

Ban will learn more about Brazil's efforts to confront climate change when he visits an ethanol plant near Sao Paulo, and talks to Indian leader in the Tapajós National Forest in the country's Amazon region. The secretary-general is also scheduled to meet Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Buenos Aires

The secretary general began, on Wednesday, November 7, his official visit to Argentina, the first stop on his trip. He was scheduled to meet Argentina's Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana in Buenos Aires as well as the presidents of the country's Senate and House of Representatives.

Last night, the Secretary-General and Madame Ban Soon-taek met with the country's President and President-elect, Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Still at the UN Headquarters, Ban spoke to reporters about his visit to Argentina, Chile and Brazil, which he said were politically and economically important members of the UN that also play a key role in efforts to address climate change issues.

While in Chile, the secretary general is expected to attend the Ibero-American Summit, and meet with the country's leaders. He will also head to Punta Arenas, in southern Chile, and Antarctica to learn more about climate change – an issue Ban has said of his priority issues.

After his visit to Latin America, Ban will travel to Tunisia, where he will attend an international counter-terrorism conference, organized by the UN, the Tunisian Government and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

From there, he heads to Valencia, Spain, to participate in launching the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"This is going to be a very hectic, 12-day-long trip, but it will be, I am sure, very rewarding," Ban told reporters prior to his departure from New York.

Mercopress/UN

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