Groups React to FAO Biofuels Study

Joanna Schroeder

Emotions are mixed regarding the findings in a recent report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that was released in Rome during a meeting with ambassadors. The report found that biofuel from crops has a significant and direct impact on food prices and food availability. In response, ActionAid said the report shows how Europe’s biofuel targets are driving up food prices and increasing hunger among the world’s poorest people.

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 8.35.14 AMThe report comes several weeks before a final decision is made by the Environment Committee, part of the European Commission, on how much fuel will be allowed to be made from feedstocks used to produce food.

“It is a wake-up call to the EU to get its house in order on food and fuel. This means some hard work ahead for MEPs and Member States who are working on redefining EU biofuels policy,” said Anders Dahlbeck, ActionAid’s biofuels policy advisor. “However as we speak, the biofuels industry is lobbying hard against new proposals before the Parliament and Council to limit the use of food crops for biofuels. MEPs and member states must not bow to industry pressure – they must end the use of food for fuel.”

The global biofuels industry has in fact taken issue with the report and the Global Renewable Fuels Association (GRFA) says that there are several methodological and factual errors in the report including the omission of key co-products in calculating the net benefits of biofuels; the overly prescriptive policy recommendations; and the inclusion of unproven land use methodologies. It should be noted that the EU biofuels policy that is under review specifically does not take in to account indirect land use in its calculations.

“It is unfortunate that the HLPE [UN Committee on Food Security’s High Level Panel of Experts] failed to get this report right. While the final report is more balanced than previous drafts, the report is still incomplete and should be revised,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for GRFA. “The HLPE should have ensured that all of the benefits of biofuels were included in the report and that it was done in the context of a world with increasing energy prices.”

According to (S&T)2 Consultants Inc., the global ethanol industry produced 40 million tonnes of animal feed in 2012, which offsets the need to grow crops for livestock. Additionally, approximately 65 percent of world ethanol production last year was produced from cereals and one third of those grains were returned back into the food complex as feed.

Bliss also noted that ILUC modeling has shown no reliability and the report omits the effect that oil prices have on food prices, the largest component in the price of food.

Agribusiness, biofuels, corn, food and fuel, Indirect Land Use