Biofuels cause of global food crisis

A confidential World Bank report indicates that biofuel production has pushed up global food prices by 75 per cent. The finding, made in April, is said to have been held from public release to avoid embarrassing the Bush administration. A car bomb in Kabul strikes the Indian embassy, killing dozens, while suspicions point towards Pakistan. As Syria calls for Palestinian reconciliation, Hamas asks Arab League to mediate with Fatah.

Powered by automated translation

"World Bank President Robert Zoellick has called for reform of biofuel policies in rich countries, urging them to grow more food to feed the hungry," BBC News reported. "He was speaking at the G8 summit in Japan, where soaring food and fuel prices are top of the agenda." Mr Zoellick's appeal comes just days after the shocking findings of a World Bank report, that was written in April, were leaked to The Guardian. "Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75 per cent - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by The Guardian. "The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at the global financial body. "The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3 per cent to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil. "Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush." Benjamin Senauer, a professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota, said: "The evidence linking biofuel production to rising food prices can't be ignored. Between the start of 2002 and early 2008, basic global food commodity prices rose by 220 per cent. The global production of biofuels - ethanol and bodiesel - rose from less than 8m gallons in 2004 to an estimated 18m gallons in 2008. The most rapid increase has been in the production of ethanol derived from corn in the US: rising from about 3.5m gallons in 2004 to an estimated 9m in 2008. This year ethanol production is forecast to consume 30 per cent or more of 2008's entire US corn crop. "Because of the surging price of agricultural commodities, Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the World Food Program, has warned that a 'tsunami of hunger' is sweeping through the poorer countries of the world. Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, has said that as many as 100 million people in the world have been forced into poverty and hunger because of the dramatic increase in food prices. These are people who live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day and whose households spend 70 per cent or more of their meagre budgets on basic food staples. A debate is raging over the role biofuels, especially corn-based ethanol, have played in increasing food prices, and hence in the rising number of people going hungry. "Ed Schafer, the US Secretary of Agriculture, has said that biofuels account for only a few per cent of the rise in the price of food, an estimate that would seem unbelievably low. One of the most reliable independent estimates comes from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). IFPRI maintains the most sophisticated model of global agricultural commodity supply and utilization, referred to by the acronym Impact. Based on that model, IFPRI estimates that 30 per cent of the increase in the prices of the major grains is due to biofuels. And now we learn that the World Bank's own unpublished forecasts suggest that biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75 per cent."

"A huge blast from a suicide car bomb at the gates of the Indian Embassy on Monday killed 41 people in the deadliest suicide car bombing since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 ousted the Taliban," The New York Times reported. "Among the victims of the attack, the first in seven years on a regional diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, were at least four Indian citizens: the Indian defense attachÈ, a political counselor and two other Indian officials. Six Afghan police officers were also killed. Many of the rest appeared to be civilians." In Time magazine, Jyoti Thottam said: "Although the Indian government has given no official indication of who might be behind the attack, President Karzai called the bombing the work of the 'enemies of Afghanistan-India friendship'. And Afghanistan's interior ministry issued a similar statement, saying that 'terrorists have carried out this attack in coordination and consultation with some of the active intelligence circles in the region.' Typically, such statements - a similar one was issued after a failed assassination attempt on Karzai in April - are taken as thinly-veiled allegations of involvement by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) organization. "Many foreign policy hawks in India believe Pakistani intelligence operatives might be targeting India's interests not just within its borders or in the disputed region of Kashmir, but also in Afghanistan. 'There's been a clear escalation of terrorist attacks,' says Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research. 'Not just on Indian territory but elsewhere in the region as well.' "Other foreign policy analysts suggest that the Kabul embassy attack was not simply a strike at an Indian installation, but also an attempt - by the Taliban, the ISI or anyone else - to undermine President Karzai and anyone who supports him. '[The perpetrators] want to disrupt the current Karzai effort that's being supported by the West,' says Uday Bhaskar, deputy director of the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis. 'India is now part of that.' Security analyst B Raman noted: "There has been a sharp increase in acts of terrorism in Afghanistan since the new Government headed by Yousef Raza Gilani assumed office in Islamabad in the last week of March, 2008. Nato officers in Afghanistan have spoken of a 40 per cent increase in the infiltration of jihadi terrorists from the tribal belt of Pakistan into Afghanistan since the new Pakistani Government suspended military operations against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and entered into peace negotiations with them. Even as acts of terrorism - including suicide terrorism - have increased in Afghan territory, there has been a sharp decrease in acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistani territory. This indicates that the new Government has made a deal with the Taliban allowing it to operate freely in Afghanistan in return for its stepping down its operations in Pakistani territory." The BBC said: "The attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul is a setback for a country which has been one of Afghanistan's closest allies in recent years. After the fall of the Taliban in 2001 India moved quickly to regain its strategic depth in Afghanistan. It opened two new consulates in Herat and Mazhar-e-Sharif and reopened two others in Kandahar and Jalalabad which had been shut since 1979. India also became one of Kabul's leading donors - it has pledged to spend $750m on helping rebuild the country's shattered infrastructure." Meanwhile, The Times reported: "Afghan officials are investigating reports from a remote area of eastern Afghanistan that US warplanes bombed a wedding party this morning, killing more than 20 civilians including women and children. "The incident in Deh Bala, a mountainous district of Nangahar Province very close to the Pakistan border, is the second alleged episode of 'collateral damage' involving American aircraft in three days. "President Hamid Karzai ordered a formal investigation into another episode in the province of Nuristan on Friday in which 15 civilians were reported killed after US planes bombed two vehicles."

"Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday called for reconciliation between Palestinian factions in a meeting with visiting Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, the state news agency SANA reported," AFP said. "He stressed 'the need to exert every effort to achieve unity among Palestinian ranks as the sole means to recover their rights, notably the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital,' it said. "SANA reported that Abbas hailed 'the role of Syria in strengthening Arab solidarity, in reunifying the Palestinians and supporting just Palestinian causes.' Alalam News reported: "Palestinian movement Hamas on Monday urged Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa to mediate in launching reconciliation talks between the Islamic groups and the Palestinian Authority chairman's Fatah party, Palestinian sources said. "Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal asked Moussa in a letter to encourage the Authority's chief Mahmoud Abbas to engage his party in reconciliation talks with Hamas as the way to patch up internal Palestinian rift, the sources said on the condition of anonymity." AFP reported: "Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has met Palestinian leaders based in Damascus, excluding the political chief of the rival Hamas movement, a member of his delegation said on Monday. "The meetings aim 'to restore order in the Palestinian house. But Mr Abbas will certainly not meet (Hamas leaders),' the official told AFP, asking not to be named. "On Monday, Abbas held talks with Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, who heads the radical group Islamic Jihad, but not Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal, who like Shalah is also exiled in Syria."