After a week of criticism of biofuels that included the U.N. special rapporteur for the right to food, Jean Ziegler calling biofuels a “crime against humanity” and protests in Brazil and Europe, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is defending his country’s right to produce biofuels.
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“Don’t tell me, for the love of God, that food is expensive because of biodiesel. Food is expensive because the world wasn’t prepared to see millions of Chinese, Indians, Africans, Brazilians and Latin Americans eat,” Lula told reporters.
“We want to discuss this not with passion but rationality and not from the European point of view.”
Critics say the increased production of crops for ethanol and biodiesel, which is derived from oil seeds, competes with for land with food crops.
Brazil has repeatedly argued that it has plenty of unused land to plant crops for biofuels and that current production was still too small to affect food prices.
Lula also took exception with Ziegler’s characterization of biofuels as a “crime against humanity”:
“The real crime against humanity is to discredit biofuels a priori and condemn food-starved and energy-starved countries to dependence and insecurity,” Lula said at a conference of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Brasilia.
Some of Brazil’s neighbors, led by oil-rich Venezuela, warned this week that biofuels could increase malnutrition in Latin America.
Lula said he was “shocked” that biofuel critics failed to mention the impact that high oil prices had on food production costs, such fertilizers. “It’s always easier to hide economic and political interests behind supposed social and environmental interests,” he said.