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Report: 'Unbridled' Rush for Land Grabs Leaving a Billion Hungry

Biofuels, food speculation pushing further land grabs

Common Dreams staff

A man in Uganda looks at land his family had cultivated for generations but that has been taken over through a land grab. (photo: Oxfam Italia via flickr)

"Out of control" land grabs by foreign corporations in the last decade have taken over an area big enough to grow food for a billion people, according to a report published Thursday from Oxfam (pdf). And the continued push for biofuels and recent food price spikes may lead to even further grabs, the group says.

“The world is facing an unbridled land rush that is exposing poor people to hunger, violence and the threat of a life-time in poverty," Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam’s Executive Director, stated.

For the communities affected, the land grabs have brought hunger and lack of food security, intimidation by foreign companies, loss of land and resrouces, and environmental harm.

While these land acquisitions may be used to grow food, they are not used for feeding the local community. "Instead," says the report, "the land is either being left idle, as speculators wait for its value to increase and then sell it at a profit, or it is predominantly used to grow crops for export, often for use as biofuels."

In fact, the use of the land grabs for biofuels has skyrocketed; the report states that two-thirds of the grabs have been used to grow biofuel crops like soy and palm oil in the last decade.

Oxfam says in the report that the World Bank should address the "unbridled rush" by issuing a freeze on the land grabs.

"The World Bank is in a unique position to stop this from becoming one of the great scandals of the 21st century," stated Hobbs.

“The World Bank, with a remit to tackle global poverty, has a responsibility to help stop land grabs and must take urgent action because the rush for land is only likely to accelerate as competition for food and natural resources intensifies. It must ensure that poor people’s rights are protected,” he added.

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