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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

contributions: 23

Addressing Food Security in Biofuel Certification

Dear Forum Members,

I am the Technical Officer of the FAO’s Bioenergy and Food Security Criteria and Indicators (BEFSCI) Project, which is currently developing a set of detailed criteria, indicators, good practices and policy options on sustainable bioenergy production that fosters rural development and food security.

In October, the BEFSCI team organized, on this Forum, a discussion on a preliminary set of “core” indicators that countries can use to monitor the impacts of modern bioenergy production on food security (see Discussion No. 60 “Measuring the Impacts of Bioenergy Production on Food Security”).
As explained below, this complementary discussion focuses on food security indicators in the context of biofuel (or biofuel feedstock) certification schemes.

Over the past few years, a number of multi-stakeholder initiatives have been established in order to develop voluntary sustainability standards for the certification of biofuels or of specific biofuel feedstocks. The BEFSCI project reviewed a number of these initiatives, which were included into a Compilation of Bioenergy Sustainability Initiatives.

Among these, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) has developed a voluntary, third-party certification system for biofuel sustainability which encompasses environmental, social and economic principles and criteria and which applies to operators along the entire biofuel production chain (i.e. from farmers to biofuel processors and biofuel blenders).

Based on inputs from a broad range of experts and organizations (including FAO), RSB has developed a principle (Principle 6) and two criteria (6a and 6b) on local food security, which apply to food-insecure regions only (see page 17 of the RSB Principles & Criteria). Criterion 6a requires that biofuel operations assess the risk of negative impacts on food security among directly affected stakeholders. In the event that initial screening indicates that a risk to food security exists, operators are required to conduct a food security impact assessment in accordance with the RSB Food Security Guidelines. Through the food security impact assessment and the Environmental and Social Management Plan, the operator is obliged to mitigate any negative impacts. Criterion 6b requires that biofuel operations enhance the local food security of the directly affected stakeholders in areas where food insecurity already exists.

RSB has also developed, through an expert consultation process, a proposal for the inclusion of the indirect impacts of biofuel production - including on food security - into the RSB Standard (see the RSB Discussion Paper “Addressing Indirect Impacts in the RSB Standard”. As stated in this paper, “indirect impacts of a biofuel operation have effects outside the geographical boundary of such operation. Such indirect impacts are the result of displacing existing provisioning services (e.g., food, feed, fuel, fiber) towards biofuel production” (page 2). The paper discusses two options for addressing indirect impacts in the RSB Standard, which could also be implemented in combination: to develop a dedicated principle and associated criteria; or to address these impacts in the RSB Standard for Risk Management.

This discussion aims to address the following questions:

  1. In your view, do Principle 6 and criteria 6a and 6b of the RSB Standard adequately address the potential negative impacts of biofuel production on local food security? Would you have any changes and/or additions to suggest that may improve the standard? Do you agree with the focus of the aforementioned principle and criteria on food insecure regions?
  2. In your opinion, should voluntary standards for certification (such as the RSB) aim to address the indirect effects of biofuel production on food security as proposed in the RSB Discussion Paper “Addressing Indirect Impacts in the RSB Standard”? Or do you think that these impacts might be better dealt with at the policy level (for instance through the “core” FAO-BEFSCI indicators for monitoring the impacts of bioenergy production on food security - see FSN Forum Discussion No. 60)?
  3. The RSB Discussion Paper “Addressing Indirect Impacts in the RSB Standard” mentions a few good practices that could be implemented in order to minimize the risk of negative indirect effects - including on food security – of biofuel operations. In your view, would further work on these practices (e.g. a compilation of good practices/case studies) be useful?

Your feedback on these questions would be really appreciated.

Thank you in advance for your time and inputs, which will help inform FAO’s inputs to the RSB and other similar processes.
The outcomes of this discussion, combined with the results on the on-going RSB pilot-tests, might also inform possible future revisions of the RSB Standard.

We are looking forward to a fruitful discussion with you.

Best regards,

Andrea Rossi
Natural Resources Management Officer (Bioenergy)
Bioenergy and Food Security Criteria and Indicators (BEFSCI) Project
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)