(Letter published in the Independent, 11.04.2008)

Sir: Your report on the global grain shortage (“Starving Haitains riot as food prices soar”, 10 April ) is a sign of a catastrophe facing the world. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), according to your report, can only advise governments to improve crop irrigation and storage. The FAO fails to mention the two major causes of the impending crisis: land being used to produce biofuel, and food grains being diverted to feed animals raised for meat.

In the last two years the US has diverted 60 million tonnes of food to fuel. Almost 60 billion animals are raised worldwide for meat every year and the grains needed to feed them could feed over 4 billion human beings. From South America to Africa to Asia the double whammy of biofuel and grains diverted to feed animals is beginning to cause hunger.

The world population is set to rise to 9.5 billion in a few years and unless we in the West and the rising middle classes of China and India revert to a plant-based vegetarian and vegan diet, mass starvation is a certainty. Biofuel is supposed to be good for the environment, but it is the billions of farm animals that are contributing more to global warming than all the world’s transport put together.

Nitin Mehta, Croydon

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