First FAO Technical Consultation on Bioenergy and Food Security

The First FAO Technical Consultation on Bioenergy and Food Security was held at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy on 16 April 2007 - 18 April 2007. The Consultation contributed toward furthering an understanding of how bioenergy sectors may represent both risks and opportunities to food security. A general consensus was that although further development of bioenergy could compromise food security and potentially result in environmental damage, bioenergy may also be a positive force to help improve the well-being of rural people throughout the world, particularly if governments and civil society account for environmental and food security concerns.

Conclusions

  • Bioenergy potential may be as closely linked to increased agricultural efficiency as food security.
  • Available food supplies may decline if increased demand for bioenergy feedstock from food crops is not balanced with increased agricultural yields or land use patterns focused on ways to increase planted areas to food.
  • Agricultural commodity prices have been influenced by increased demand for feedstock to produce biofuels, particularly sugar, maize and oilseeds.
  • Rising commodity prices may benefit producers but may be negative for poor consumers, particularly if increased demand for biofuels pressures food prices and alters land use patterns.
  • Net food and net energy importing countries may face even greater challenges in future.
  • New ways to increase food and fuel output are necessary, rotating crops for energy with food crops could improve yields and enhance disease and pest resistance, while providing value addition and diversification for producers.
  • Exploring the potential for multi-purpose crops and using agro-ecological zones (AEZ) as entry points for understanding biomass potentials is important.
  • Bioenergy could help develop rural infrastructure and increase employment in agricultural sectors, especially in rural areas.
  • Biofuels made from non-food crops, for example, such as castor beans or jatropha, provide ways for small farmers to grow cash crops, access new market outlets or farm sources of energy for themselves, their local communities and strengthen linkages to commercial markets.
  • Rapid bioenergy development may result in unintended consequences to food security and the environment, and these risks warrant further attention. 

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last updated:  Wednesday, April 2, 2014