The president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, made an impassioned defense of biofuels rejecting that they are responsible for the recent rise in global food prices, during the opening ceremony of a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference in Brazilian capital BrasÀlia.
President Lula also criticized industrial countries for subsidizing agriculture, which he blamed for undermining the competitiveness of developing nations and reducing world production.
"Biofuels aren't the villain that threatens food security," he said adding that "on the contrary … they can pull countries out of energy dependency without affecting foods."
A chorus of opposition to biofuels has been growing in different parts of the world in recent months. Environmental groups, government ministers and even world leaders like President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Cuba’s Fidel Castro have all voiced their concerns that the use of crops like sugar-cane and corn to make fuel for cars could lead to a serious food crisis.
Critics claim biofuels are also partly responsible for the recent rise in global food prices.
And Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur for Food Rights and a Swiss national, has described biofuel production as "a crime against humanity."
President Lula, whose country is the world's largest exporter of biofuels such as ethanol made from sugarcane, said it was easy for someone sitting in Switzerland to preach to Brazil.
He said allegations that global food prices were rising because of biofuels were baseless. Food prices were going up, he said, because people in developing countries like China, India and Brazil itself were simply eating more as their economic conditions improved.
The president has signed several important cooperation deals with the US, another leading biofuels producer, as well as with several African countries, to work together to improve production.
The battle against biofuels has united a dichotomous group ranging from environmental activists to the leaders of some of the world's largest oil producing countries
"The real crimes against humanity are discarding biofuels and criticizing countries, energy dependence and food insecurity," he said. "If there is no reduction of agricultural subsidies in Europe, it will be difficult for poor countries to be competitive".
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