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Biofuels “a crime against humanity”

Link: BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Biofuels ‘crime against humanity’.

A United Nations expert has condemned the growing use of crops to produce biofuels as a replacement for petrol as a crime against humanity.

The UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, said he feared biofuels would bring more hunger.

Of course, we don’t have to face the choice between feeding everyone and growing fuel. We could, instead, use technology to create new crops which grow faster and require less in the way of expensive pesticides and nitrates. Ones which could be planted reliably, year after year, without having the impact which current high-yield crops have.

Would it surprise you to know that crops like these already exist – but that a well-financed lobby is pressuring governments not to allow them to be grown? And that this lobby is, instead, pushing crops which require highly-toxic chemicals such as copper sulphate to be used on them as pesticides.

The crops this lobby is pushing, of course, are normally called
"organic". The crops which offer us some hope of having enough land for
both biofuels and food, are, of course, normally called "genetically

We face a very serious choice over the coming years: do we allow science a chance at fixing the world’s problems, as it has managed to fix them so far? Or do we retreat into mysticism and superstition, and hack back our standard of living to the equivalent of the last point in history when "organic" agriculture was the norm – the 17th Century, which was coincidentally also the last time we had famine in England.

Personally, I’m on the side of the area of knowledge which has caused life expectancy to be raised, more people than ever to be fed, cancer rates to fall and literacy to increase. Mumbo jumbo? No thanks.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/fabius/ Phil Gyford

    I’ve been pretty well taken in by the organic food good, big corporation genetically modified food evil side of things (never mind that organic food is big business too). Probably because I tend to share other beliefs with the kinds of people who hold this view.

    But you’re often right about stuff (not always of course, but often :) ). Can you suggest anything I should read that would make me question my beliefs on this point further?

  • http://profile.typekey.com/ianbetteridge/ Ian Betteridge

    For a good general overview of sceptical perspectives on organics and much more, I’d recommend “The March of Unreason” by Dick Taverne. The bit on organic food is mercifully short (and dutifully scathing). Taverne isn’t right about everything, but his perspective is pretty simple: science is the most powerful tool we have for solving problems, so using it to solve the problems we currently face makes more sense than wooly thinking.