London, March 7 : A top British Government official has warned that the rush towards biofuels is threatening world food production and the lives of billions of people. According to a report in the Times of London, John Beddington, the British Government's chief scientific adviser, has issued the warning in a statement. "It's very hard to imagine how we can see the world growing enough crops to produce renewable energy and at the same time meet the enormous demand for food," he told a conference on sustainability in London yesterday," he said.
Beddington said that by 2030, the world population would have increased to such an extent that a 50 per cent increase in food production would be needed. By 2080 it would need to double. But the rush to biofuels - allegedly environmentally friendly - meant that increasing amount of arable land had been given over to fuel rather than food. According to Beddington, biofuels have already contributed to the rapid rise in international wheat prices and it is likely to be only a matter of time before shoppers in Britain faced big price rises because of the soaring cost of feeding livestock.
The official also said that the prospect of food shortages over the next 20 years was so acute that politicians, scientists and farmers must begin to tackle it immediately.
"Climate change is a real issue and is rightly being dealt with by major global investment," said Beedington.
"However, I am concerned there is another major issue along a similar time scale, an elephant in the room - that of food and energy security. This is giving me and many of my scientific colleagues much concern," he added.
Population levels are growing so fast already that an extra six million people are born every month.
"Growing enough food for everyone was further challenged because of climate change, which was likely to lead to a shortage of water," said Beddington.
Scientists have said that intense dry spells will become more frequent over the next century. The supply of water will be put under further pressure because of the increased number of people who need it, not only to drink, but also to keep their crops alive.
Because it was almost impossible to control the population increase in the short term, Professor Beddington suggests that other measures would need to be taken. ccording to him, food production could be boosted, including by growing genetically modified crops.