New FOE Study Slams Biofuels

Joanna Schroeder

A new study by Friends of the Earth slams biofuels and bases many of its conclusions on indirect land use change (ILUC) a hotly debated theory. The report, “Understanding the Biofuel Trade-offs between Indirect Land Use Change, Hunger and Poverty,” authored by 2013_01_malawi_09 Photo UNTimothy Searchinger, relies on ILUC theory and leaves out several underlying causes of global hunger when making an attempt to connect biofuels production and food security.

In response to the study, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) who says that Searchinger’s theory attempts to predict future land use patterns globally that might result from the increased production of biofuels, has been disproven and discredited by a significant number of scientists and academics.

“ILUC has proven to be faulty because modeling relies on hundreds of assumptions, not facts, to predict future land use patterns around the world,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA. “There is an abundance of evidence that shows ILUC to have no ability to accurately predict future land use patterns and that Searchinger was wrong.”

Bliss continued, “When attempting to draw a link between biofuels production and hunger, Mr. Searchinger conveniently ignores the fact that the world produces twice as much food as is consumed. It is well understood that food security and hunger are directly related to poverty, accessibility, and a lack of investment in agriculture to name a few of the underlying issues.”

A recent study, Global Food – Waste Not, Want Not, by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) found that half of all global food, 1 to 2 billion tons, goes to waste before reaching people’s stomachs each year. According to the IMechE study, food is wasted at every point in the supply chain, including: poor harvesting practices, storage, transportation, market waste and consumer waste. In developing countries, waste occurs mostly at the farmer-producer end of the supply chain and moves up the chain the more developed the country. In developed countries, grocery stores often reject produce because it does not meet certain appearance standards.“The primary challenge of food security is not how much food we grow but how efficiently we grow it, distribute it and how much of it we waste. It is well understood that global food production IMechE_Food_Report_Cover-webfar exceeds our needs today and the scale of food waste worldwide is unacceptably high. We must take this problem seriously,” said Baker.

It is widely accepted that the price of crude oil is the largest component in the cost of our food because it affects every stage of food production. From farm to table, oil price spikes can increase the cost of fertilizer, inflate the cost of packaging and raise the cost of transportation. This translates to crude oil prices having a disproportionate affect on food prices where the price of food rises with the price of oil.

“We frankly would have expected a more rigorous and credible report coming from Friends of the Earth,” said Mr. Baker. “If Mr. Searchinger and Friends of the Earth were really concerned about poverty, they would place greater importance and focus on the price of oil, which has always had the greatest impact on the price of food.”

biofuels, Indirect Land Use, International