Why biofuels matter in the food security debate

Bubbles in biofuel. A new report by ActionAid argues that expanded use of biofuels is one of the driving forces behind high global food prices. Photo by: Steve Jurvetson / CC BY

Ahead of a high-level meeting on food security and global prices today, Oct. 16, in Italy, an international nongovernmental organization has proposed putting biofuels on top of the agenda.

The meeting will be hosted by Stéphane Le Foll, the agriculture minister of France, and will feature up to 20 agriculture ministers along with civil society representatives and other aid officials. It is among a number of events on the sidelines of the weeklong Committee on World Food Security plenary session in Rome, Italy.

In a new report released ahead of the meeting, ActionAid argues that the expanded use of biofuels, such as in the United States, is among the forces driving high global food prices. The conclusion echoes those of previous reports by ActionAid, which has been consistently pushing for a rethink of biofuel policies in the European Union and elsewhere.

The report urges the Group of 20 to take a number of coordinated actions, namely:

  • Encourage more investments in small-scale local producers.

  • Urge member countries to remove mandates, financial incentives and targets that encourage the unsustainable production and use of industrial biofuel.

  • Support the establishment of regional and transparently governed buffer stocks of locally produced corn and other agricultural products to help maintain prices at a stable level.

One event where biofuel is already a key part of the agenda is the 2012 European Development Days, which kicks off today in Brussels, Belgium. As part of EDD’s focus on food security, among three central themes, European Commission officials, civil society representatives and international experts will tackle biofuels in a high-level panel on Oct. 17.

On the same day, the European Commission is expected to present proposals to cap its use of crop-based biofuels to only 5 percent of its total transport fuel consumption, among other changes to the bloc’s biofuels policy. News of this shift in EU policy first circulated in September and is reportedly designed to improve the sustainability of the bloc’s biofuel use. 

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.