52 Ahamat & Rahman
As the surge in global oil prices has increased the demand for production and
trade of both biofuel feedstocks and products, trade in biofuels is becoming a more
relevant topic of discussion in the international community. This has led to an
increase in demand for crops, like soybean, corn and sugar cane, which is processed
into not only biofuel feedstock, but also for biofuel end products like bioethanol and
biodiesel. This has pressured supply, which has in turn led to the inflation of the
prices of food. This can be witnessed in the skyrocketing prices of tortillas in Mexico,
which was partly due to the lucrative demand for corn from bio-ethanol producers
in the US.
Food supply may be threatened by disincentives to farmers; they would
rather focus on producing ‘fuel-friendly’ grains. As evidenced in the US, some
farmers switched from wheat to maize for this purpose.
The mass production of biofuels could lead to the clearing of large tracts of
rainforests. Grand scale developments of palm oil plantations in Malaysia and
Indonesia, and sugar cane plantations in Brazil for the production of biofuels are
vivid examples of devastation. They have led to deforestation, mono-cropping
and the deprivation of human rights of indigenous people which is to be protected
under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(“ICESCR”) as well as the regional human rights treaties. Biofuel crop plantations
disrupt communal living of the indigenous, deprive their right to health
their cultural rights.
These arguments have been used consistently by developed
countries as a means to restrict biofuel imports from developing countries like
Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil in that they inform the discussions on trade in
1 Jo Tuckman, Tortilla turmoil, The Guardian, Aug. 22, 2007, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/
aug/22/guardiansocietysupplement.environment (last visited on Apr. 6, 2014).
2 J. Vidal, The looming food crisis, The Guardi an, Aug. 29, 2007, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/
environment/2007/aug/29/food.g2 (last visited on Apr. 6, 2014).
3 An example is Inter-American Commission on Human Rights case of Yanomami v. Brazil (Res. No. 12/85, Case
7615). See C. Scott, Multinational Enterprises and Emergent Jurisprudence on Violations of Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights, in economic, Social and culTural riGhTS 577 (A. Eide, C. Krause & A. Rosas eds., 2001); C-f. Lo,
Plurilateral FTAs to Enhance Human Rights Protection in Asia, 8 aSian J. WTo & inT’l healTh l. & Pol’y 608
4 Scott, id. at 581.
5 Friends of the Earth, The use of palm oil for biofuel and as biomass for energy: Friends of the Earth's position,
Briefing, Aug. 2006, available at http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/palm_oil_biofuel_position.pdf
(last visited on Apr. 6, 2014). See also A. Barber, G. Pellow & M. de Pereira, The Sustainability of Brazilian Sugarcane
Bioethanol: A Literature Review, May 2008, available at http://s3.amazonaws.com/zanran_storage/www.eeca.govt.nz/
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