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Contributions for HLPE consultation on the V0 draft of the Report: Biofuels and Food Security

European Biodiesel Board, , Belgium
FSN Forum

The European Biodiesel Board (EBB) gathers 80 European producers among 21 Member-States. We represent more than ¾ of the biofuels output in Europe, largely contributing to ground alternatives to fossil fuel in transport. Biodiesel provides environmental advantages, reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions as well as decreasing sulphur particles and compound in the air. In addition to being a safe, environmental friendly resource, our product contributes to higher energy independence, while also providing employment in Europe and worldwide. Furthermore, biodiesel production fosters agriculture output by enhancing farmers’ revenues and developing technological input.

While EBB welcomes the opportunity to participate into the current study undertaken by the FAO, we would like take this opportunity to highlight some misunderstandings and loopholes developed in the report.

Overall methodology

As regards methodology, the report as it stands fails to provide strong methodology in order to reach fair and well-balanced conclusions. The literature review is rather poor and do not tend to overview the current state of the art as regards research on biofuels. Of a particular matter, the report shows strong inconsistency when evaluating its resources. While the IFPRI study based on equilibrium long-term modelling is presented as the cornerstone report when assessing land availability and assessing “long term price elasticity[1]”, the authors reject the possibility to rely on similar methodology when assessing the agricultural commodity prices[2]. It does not reach the rigour requirements of such a prestigious institution as FAO. While the UK Government (HM Government, 2009) was positively peer reviewed, the IFPRI study was numerously criticised. Numerous alternative reports concluded that biofuels production was not accurately reflected.

Furthermore, the report lacks clear definition of biofuels and food security per se. Neither the scientific community, nor the political sphere nor the industry concerned have managed to defined “advanced biofuels” and we would suggest to be extremely careful on this matter. Indeed, advanced biofuels could encompass a vast range of aspects such as new technology developments, higher greenhouse gas savings, or alternative feedstocks. Hence, lack of definition may lead to inadequate recommendations.

Understanding of policy issues and technology development

Furthermore, the report does not seem to provide sufficient evidence to “call in question the use of mandate/targets together with subsidies and tariffs[3]”. The Renewable Energy Directive (RED, 2009/28) mandates a 10 % share of renewable energy sources in the transport sector by 2020. It relies on market forces to determine the most appropriate manner to reach such targets. European Member States forecast a predominant reliance on biodiesel due to current market structure and availability of technology. Furthermore, the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD, 2009/30) has additional energy intensive targets, contrary to what seemed to imply the quote page 7. Additionally, the Commission legislative proposal released in October 2012 is still under debate, implying that the Council of the European Union along with the European Parliament have the possibility to modify it and, hence, should not be taken as a definitive version.

On the contrary, the FAO report does not assess the positive value of mandates. Long-term targets provide with stable long term views for agricultural markets, hence enabling farmers to foster their income and invest in higher quality products. On this particular matter, we would like to strongly emphasize the need for legislative stability as well as strong regulatory framework to ensure the accurate deployment of alternative resources

The technology barrier should be hence comprehended in this light. Technology development is of primary interest for biodiesel production and it seems essential to ensure that the current state of play is fairly considered. As second generation is defined neither in this report nor among stakeholders, it seems rather difficult to draw any conclusions on the maturity of such products. While the International Energy Agency has demonstrated that technological investments are taking place, the sector lacks long term perspective to enhance confidence in the future. To reach economy of scale, thus reducing the amount of policy support, requires 5 to 10 years from the time of investment decision.

Biofuels and food prices

Biofuels and food security is an imported subject, which should be discussed in a fair and neutral manner. It is important that the report is well balanced with equal assessment of trends and market patterns. The current report disposes of little evidence demonstrating a linear consequence between deployment of biofuels and increase in food prices. The food crisis at the beginning of year 2008 was clearly linked to a spectacular increase of petroleum prices: crude oil reached 133,9 US Dollars/barrel in June 2008 (compared to 91,45US Dollars/barrel in December 2007). The “low energy efficiency of food” led to higher food prices in several developing countries. A FAO/OECD[4] report concludes that a 25% increase in oil price translates into a 14% increase in fertiliser prices, which insists on the strong link between energy and agricultural prices.

4 FAO-OECD Agricultural outlook (2012), p. 41

Moreover, we would be interested to see academic peer-reviewed work on the causal link between reliance on biofuels and so-called land-grabbing. No significant imports of biofuels from Africa to Europe could allow drawing a clear link for such statement (Eurostat data). It is yet concerning that FAO bases its conclusions on NGOs reports and case-study evidence without any further grounded proofs. There is additionally no evidence stressing the fact that palm oil based plantations are exclusively aimed at biodiesel production.

EBB suggestions

As such, the current report does not seem to fully grasp the positive outcome of biodiesel production in terms of agricultural development both in Europe and third countries. Biodiesel production is strongly intertwined with agriculture products and numerous reports – including the FAO services- have demonstrated how biofuels deployment could foster access to food products, while overcoming structural political constraints in remove less developed areas. As stated by numerous well-informed contributors, the use of co-products is often neglected when analysing the role of biofuels.

The FAO BEFS (Bioenergy and Food Security) analysis of bioenergy policies also recognises the three distinct advantages of biofuels, i.e. positively affecting agricultural and rural incomes, poverty reduction and economic growth through creation of new markets, reducing energy dependency, and enhancing food security. The BEFS analysis also concludes that general conclusions cannot be made as to the impact of biofuels on food prices, economic growth, energy security, deforestation, land use and climate change. Hence, biofuels policy should be assessed in a broader framework in order to fully understand their role.

We would like to thank you for the time you will take to consider our comments and would be delighted to discuss further the manner with you.

[1] p.22

[2] In particular « this use of the models is often inappropriate. Many of the model cited are general equilibrium models that by design attempt to estimate the impacts on prices in a long term equilibrium”, p. 33

[3] 3 Draft policy recommendations

[4] FAO-OECD Agricultural outlook (2012), p. 41


Groupe Interministeriel Français sur la Securité Alimentaire (GISA) ...
FSN Forum

Ces commentaires ne préjugent pas de la position française sur le document final.

  1. Remarques générales

Cette première version  du rapport est riche et aborde les différents effets de la dynamique de développement des biocarburants sur la sécurité alimentaire. Elle permet de dresser un panorama général des différentes pratiques en matière de politique de développement des biocarburants et vise à en comprendre les limites du point de vue de la sécurité alimentaire, mais aussi social, environnemental et économique.

Le Comité de la sécurité alimentaire (CSA) a chargé le HLPE de « faire une étude documentaire comparative, fondée sur des données scientifiques, en prenant en considération les travaux issus de la FAO et du partenariat mondial sur les bioénergies (GBEP), des répercussions positives et négatives des agrocarburants sur la sécurité alimentaire ». Le rapport gagnerait à rendre davantage état des débats existants en complétant notamment les références à la littérature existante. En effet, ce rapport vise à éclairer les décideurs politiques regroupés au sein du CSA, il est nécessaire qu'il rende compte objectivement de l'état des débats et de la controverse.

La version V0 du rapport s'intéresse essentiellement aux aspects « macros » dans les différents domaines abordés (effet sur les prix, effet sur le foncier) qui ne permettent pas de conclure de l'ensemble des impacts sur la sécurité alimentaire au niveau local et international.

Le rapport invite à une meilleure prise en compte des questions de sécurité alimentaire dans la mise en place des politiques et des projets en faveur  du développement des biocarburants et insiste sur les risques que peuvent faire peser les biocarburants de première génération sur les marchés agricoles. Ce diagnostic général, devrait être complété par une analyse des expériences de développement des biocarburants s'inscrivant dans une démarche de développement rural au bénéfice des populations locales et d'analyser également les effets sur l'emploi, le revenu agricole et l'accès à l'énergie qui sont des aspects clés pour la sécurité alimentaire.

Concernant l'organisation du contenu, il serait intéressant de mettre en avant les principaux points de conclusions ou d'attention à la fin de chaque chapitre, sous forme d'un encadré conclusion afin d'en faciliter la lecture. Le rapport se termine par un chapitre thématique, il serait opportun d'ajouter une dernière partie perspective, recommandation ou conclusion.


  1. Remarques sur le contenu


  1. Chapitre 1 : Biofuels policies

Cette partie est importante car elle permet de dresser un panorama mondial des différentes motivations et stratégies adoptées par les gouvernements sur les biocarburants. Il serait intéressant ici de développer davantage les différents types d'outils mis en place dans les pays pour soutenir ou encadrer les filières biocarburants, et d'analyser leurs effets sur la dynamique des filières, les prix et la pression sur le foncier.

L’idée d’une typologie des situations nationales comme outil d’aide à la décision est intéressante et gagnerait à être plus développée en distinguant peut-être d’autres critères comme l'accès aux ressources naturelles, le niveau de sécurité alimentaire, l'existence d’un tissu industriel, les sources actuelles d’approvisionnement en énergie, le contexte climatique... Il est étonnant que les pays à haut revenu ne soient pas du tout mentionnés ici.

En Europe, ce qui est présenté comme une Directive (p.14) n’est à ce stade qu’un projet de la Commission Européenne.  Par ailleurs, la nouvelle proposition de la Commission ne consiste pas en l'imposition d'un plafond de consommation, mais d'un plafond sur le taux d'incorporation d'agrocarburants à base de matières premières comestibles.

  1. Chapitre 2 : Biofuels and the technology frontier

L'analyse des biocarburants de deuxième génération mériterait d'être davantage développée. En effet, la seconde génération de biocarburant est très hétérogène, son impact en terme d'utilisation des sols, de réduction des GES et ses rendements sont très différents. A titre d'exemple, le rapport pourrait étudier des solutions comme l'utilisation de la paille de riz dont une grande quantité est aujourd'hui brûlée dans les champs.

Enfin, l’utilisation des déchets alimentaires et industriels, déchets verts, déchets cellulosiques urbains dans une civilisation du recyclage systématique mériterait une évaluation quantitative, ainsi que les perspectives globales en termes de sobriété énergétique.

  1. Chapitre 3 : Biofuels, Food Prices, Hunger and Poverty

Sur la question centrale du nexus biocarburant – prix – faim et pauvreté (partie 3.1) la démonstration se base sur des moyennes mondiales alors que l'insécurité alimentaire dans le monde repose sur une conjonction de facteurs et de contraintes aussi bien internationaux que locaux.  Cette partie, fondamentale dans le rapport gagnerait à être davantage étayée et illustrée d'une analyse microéconomique des impacts des politiques de développement des biocarburants et des réponses adoptées par les populations les plus vulnérables confrontées à une forte augmentation des prix au regard notamment de leur situation (acheteur net d'aliments versus vendeur net).

Par ailleurs, sur la question clé de la réduction de la consommation alimentaire comme conséquence de l'augmentation de la demande en biocarburants, le document ne fait état que d'une partie des conclusions des travaux d'Edward et al (2011). En complément à ce que suggère le rapport, Eward et al. indiquent également que l'ajustement de la demande, par non remplacement d'un tiers environ des calories converties aux biocarburants[1], se ferait d'abord par une réduction de la demande pour l’alimentation animale plus que par la réduction de la consommation des populations en situation d'insécurité alimentaire[2].

De plus, la corrélation n'est pas systématique entre les marchés alimentaires mondiaux et les marchés de détails dans certains pays. Il conviendrait de compléter cette partie en prenant en compte les impacts de la production à grande échelle de biocarburants sur les prix et la disponibilité des denrées alimentaires au niveau national et local.

Par ailleurs, Il convient également de  prendre en compte les impacts des appropriations de terres à grande échelle (pour la production de biocarburants ou d'autres cultures), au niveau national et local, sur les prix et la disponibilité des denrées alimentaires. A titre d'illustration le développement dans une région d'une plantation de canne à sucre ou d'huile de palme de 50 000 à 100 000 ha dont la production est transformée puis exportée a nécessairement des impacts sur la disponibilité de nourriture, les prix et par voie de conséquence la situation alimentaire des foyers.

Concernant la question majeure de l'effet des biocarburants sur les prix des matières premières, si l'on peut aujourd'hui parler d'un consensus indéniable sur l'effet prix induit par le développement des biocarburants, la quantification de la part de responsabilité de ces derniers sur l'augmentation des prix internationaux est encore discutée. Le rapport devrait présenter une synthèse de la littérature économique et économétrique sur les relations entre prix des carburants, prix des biocarburants et prix des produits alimentaires   et rapporter l'état de la controverse.

En particulier le rôle des politiques de soutien devrait être complété en précisant davantage leurs effets potentiels sur les prix alimentaires en fonction du contexte d'application et des options politiques choisies : seuil d'incorporation des biocarburants, caractère contraignant ou non de ce seuil, seuil plafond ou seuil plancher, incitation fiscale...Ces éléments sont indispensables pour analyser le ratio et l'évolution des prix (alimentaire et pétrole) et le niveau de connexion des marchés (idem), et ainsi d'appréhender l'impact sur les marchés alimentaires.

Les auteurs s'intéressent principalement aux effets à court terme des biocarburants sur les marchés agricoles et analysent la situation récente des marchés. Une mise en perspective de l'évolution historique du niveau des prix agricoles ainsi que des prix des principales matières premières (pétrole, …) en valeur réelle permettrait de mieux déterminer  le poids des biocarburants comme déterminant du prix agricole. 

Concernant les éléments de prospective, les mutations en cours dans le monde des énergies fossiles gagneraient à être davantage pris en compte (gisements non conventionnels, schistes bitumineux, etc.), ainsi que les perspectives globales en termes de sobriété et d'efficience énergétique. Le document ne retient implicitement qu’un scenario de prix haut pour les carburants fossiles, or même si ce scénario est sans doute le plus probable, les autres « futurs alternatifs » gagneraient à être également évoqués car cela conditionne la rentabilité des biocarburants, l'impact des politiques actuelles et par conséquent leur développement et leurs effets sur la sécurité alimentaire.

Concernant l'importance attribuée aux autres facteurs la liste pourrait être complétée (les politiques de restriction aux exportations...). Par ailleurs, il nous semble que le document devrait rapporter davantage l'état de la bibliographie existante en dégageant les consensus et les controverses (la controverse sur le rôle de la spéculation n'est pas encore éteinte) avant, éventuellement de conclure (cf. les commentaires généraux ci-dessus).

  1. Chapitre 4 : Biofuels and land

Le rapport met l'accent sur la faible disponibilité réelle des terres, ce qui est une bonne chose. En effet, beaucoup de terres prétendument disponibles sont utilisées par les populations locales pour leur survie : cueillette, transhumance, collecte de bois de chauffe… Néanmoins, le rapport n'aborde pas le potentiel d'intensification de l'usage des terres agricoles comme piste de développement des biocarburants à usage local. Le développement d'agro-industries à grande échelle acquérant, dans un système de gouvernance foncière défaillant, de grandes superficies au détriment des communautés locales, est totalement différent de la plantation paysanne dont le producteur aura décidé lui même d'affecter une partie de ces terres à cette culture (en association avec d'autres cultures par exemple) et dont le débouché est assuré par une contractualisation (à l'instar d'autres cultures de rente comme le coton).

Les exemples sur le jatropha gagneraient à être développés. Il existe en effet divers systèmes de production du jatropha visant à favoriser la sécurité alimentaire dans la logique de l'introduction d'une nouvelle culture de rente et dont le carburant produit peut bénéficier à l'intensification de la production agricole (motopompes, motoculteurs …) et sa transformation (moulins …) permettant un gain de productivité et une meilleure valorisation. Il conviendrait de mettre en avant les différentes expériences qui présentent des résultats contrastés et restent encore à un stade embryonnaire.

Par ailleurs, il conviendrait d'étudier d'autres exemples d'introduction de biocarburants à l'échelle paysanne pilotés par des organisations paysannes pouvant fournir des perspectives intéressantes.

Enfin, la notion de réversibilité de l'usage de la terre devrait être davantage étudiée  afin de mieux évaluer  les impacts sur la sécurité alimentaire à moyen et long terme. A l'inverse les risques liés à la destruction de la biodiversité (déforestation de forêts primaires,…) présentent une irréversibilité totale.

  1. Chapitre 5 : Social implications of biofuels

Le rapport limite l'intérêt « social » aux besoins des communautés rurales en matière de cuisson, de chauffage et de gestion de l'eau. Il serait intéressant dans cette partie d'évoquer les perspectives de développement social, économique et territorial que peuvent offrir les biocarburants.

Concernant les schémas de certification définis au niveau européen, le rapport pourrait souligner la faiblesse suivante : l'article 18 de la directive EnR prévoit que lorsque la Communauté a conclu avec des pays tiers des accords bilatéraux portant sur des "sujets couverts par les critères de durabilité", la Commission peut décider que ces accords servent à établir que les biocarburants et bioliquides produits à partir des matières premières cultivées dans ces pays sont conformes aux critères de durabilité. Il n'y a actuellement aucun accord de ce type en vigueur, mais ce point de la directive pourrait présenter, s'il était appliqué et selon la façon dont il pourrait l'être, un risque de déprécier la mise en œuvre de la durabilité, de constituer un précédent, et de donner lieu à de la concurrence déloyale entre les biocarburants soumis de façon stricte aux critères de durabilité et ceux qui le seraient par ces accords.

III.   Références

Propositions de références supplémentaires :

Prise en compte des émissions liées aux changements d'affection des sols : De Cara et al, 2012 « Revue des études évaluant l'effet des changements d'affectations des sols sur les bilans environnementaux des biocarburants » qui réalise une méta analyse des estimations d’impacts ILUC/CAS dans plus de 485 références bibliographiques fournit le spectre des résultats mais explique surtout quelles hypothèses ou facteurs pris en compte ou non dans les modèles conduisent à des estimations hautes ou basses

Rendements énergétiques des biocarburants de 2ème génération : l’étude de Taheripour et Tyner (2012) pointent des rendements énergétiques très hétérogènes et donc des effets en terme de réduction des GES très différents entre le myschantus, le switchgrass ou les résidus de maïs (tige) :

Les rapports de la Commission européenne, études et consultations publiques

dont l'étude IFPRI de David Labordes 2011


L'importance des contraintes (mandats, blend wall, etc.) et des régimes de prix des biocarburants et leur connexion variable avec les cours des carburants fossiles. Plusieurs études se sont attachés à cet aspects centraux (à titre d'exemple on peut citer Abbott, 2012 :  « Biofuels, Binding Constraints and Agricultural Commodity Price Volatility » dans lequel l'auteur distingue pas moins de 7 régimes successifs de prix depuis 2005, marqués par des coefficients de corrélation très contrastés entre prix du pétrole et prix du maïs. D'autres peuvent être aussi cités (Herlet et Beckman, 2011, « Commodity Price Volatility in the Biofuel Era: An Examination of the Linkage Between Energy and Agricultural Markets » ou bien Babcok, 2011 : « The Impact of US Biofuel Policies on Agricultural Price Levels and Volatility »)

« Biofuel and Food-Commodity Prices » : qui indique notamment dans la revue de littérature : « Overall, this literature suggests that the linkage between ethanol prices and food prices is rather weak, and that the diffusion of shocks between fuel and food prices is very limited » sans toutefois conclure que les effets des biocarburants sur les prix sont nuls.

Sur la quantification de la part de responsabilité des biocarburants sur l'augmentation des prix internationaux : voir par exemple Hochman et. Al, 2012 :, Abbott, 2012, ou encore Serra, 2012 ou bien MH Hubert, 2012 : « Nourriture contre carburant, quels sont les termes du débat » pour quelques articles récents résumant une partie de la littérature existante

Jatropha reality check, a field assessment of the agronomic and economic viability of Jatropha and other oilseed crops in Kenya, World Agroforestry Centre, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Endelevu Energy, GTZ, Décembre 2009 : Cette même étude recommande d’ailleurs à tous les acteurs concernés ‘‘de réévaluer avec précautions leurs activités de promotion du jatropha en tant que source d’énergie prometteuse’’.

Sur la disponibilité des terres dans les pays en développement :

Gérard CHOUQUER, « L'Afrique est-elle disponible ? » Ce qu'on voit quand on regarde, Grain de Sel, 2012

"How much spare land exist ?" Bulletin of the international Union of soil Sciences n° 97, Young, A. 2000

"Is there really spare land, a critique of estimates cultivable land in developing countries'' environment development and sustainabiliy 1:3-18 Young, A. 1999

« A savoir » de l’AFD n°11 : « La situation foncière en Afrique à l’’horizon 2050 », janvier 2012 Alain DURAND-LASSERVE et Étienne Le ROY, comité technique “Foncier & développement ».

[1]Page 22, premier paragraphe dernière phrase (Roberts 2010)

[2]« This reduction is not mostly from people eating less: it is a shift of meat production from livestock fed on crops (mostly in EU) to livestock raised on ranches in more extensive countries. », Edwards et al


mauro conti crocevia, Italy
mauro conti

Dear HLPE,

the report on biofuels do not take in deep consideration the difference between high prices and price volatility.

Indeed speculation plays a minor role, since financial market deregulation anc correlation between oil a commodities has not been take in the proper consideration

Please see the attachment (pg19-22)


Mauro Conti

Ministry of Mines and Energy , Brazil
FSN Forum

1.            From the very beginning of the document, on its Executive Summary, the presented premises reveal the whole document bias against the production and use of bioenergy, specifically biofuels.

2.            In order to produce a bigger impact on readers, numbers are put without a clear context and disconnected with actual figures. The presented impacts of the production of biofuels in order to reach a theoretical 10% of global transportation fuels are clearly overestimated. Moreover, it is not considered the enormous potential of the already available biomass from agricultural residues.

3.            Part of the overestimation comes from the hypothesis of converting the nowadays crops into biofuels which is virtually impossible and counter efficient. So, to say that “If 10% of all transport fuels, to date, were to be achieved through biofuels, this would absorb 26% of all crop production” means nothing. The hypothetical production of biofuels to attend 10% of transportation fuels must come from energy crops. So, all impacts must be evaluated from this perspective. Moreover, biofuels’ production implies necessarily the production of food, feed and fiber.

4.            The global consumption of light distillates[1] in 2011 was 1,638,832,073 m³. Considering that 10% of this volume would be supplied by biofuels, then the ethanol volume demanded would be of 241,975,205 m³. If we consider that this volume can be produced by current technologies (1st generation ethanol), then the amount of land required would be of 32 million hectares[2].

5.            Using the same line of thought, middle distillates consumption[3] in 2011 was 1.865.837.179 m³. Considering that 10% of this volume would be supplied by biofuels, then the biodiesel volume demanded would be of 186,583,718 m³. If we consider that this volume can be produced by current technologies (1st generation biodiesel), then the amount of land required would be of 37 million hectares[4].

6.            Thus, considering biofuels’ production capable of displacing 10% of total light and middle distillates consumed today it would require less than 70 million hectares[5]. This area corresponds to 2.2% of total potential area for agriculture[6]; or 5% of total agricultural area in 2011[7]; or 10% of total harvested area in 2011[8].

7.            In order to produce a bigger impact, all land needs to produce biofuels are mentioned in relation to a particular concept of “vegetated land” that was not predefined and, also, has no means to the assessment proposed. All other kind of categorization of land mentioned above (potential area for agriculture; total agricultural area; and harvested area) are better to understand and are clearer.

Final Remarks

8.            There is neither economic growth nor social development without energy supply. Likewise, environmental conservation is impossible without adequate energy resources. Biofuels represent today a major opportunity for investments for developing poor countries. Besides its high economic potential, they also bring undeniable social and environmental benefits through its production and use. Brazil has been promoting the dissemination of its public policies, which managed to introduce biofuels in its energy matrix, now an irrefutable reference for the world. Many international cooperation agreements come as proof of its expertise. The dissemination of use and production techniques includes easy access to technologies and elimination of trade barriers, which may highly contribute to turn biofuels into energy commodities.

9.            After the two petroleum crisis, in the 70´s, the whole concept of “energy security” gets re-shaped. Energy security starts to consist, essentially, in having a continuous energy supply, big enough to cover the demands of a particular country at reasonable prices. Prices a society could afford without damaging its own economy. This concept implies controlling energy supply sources, not necessarily its actual possession, knowledge of the demand and supply evolution, and the diversification of energy sources.

10.          While the world seeks energy alternatives capable of promoting the economic growth without worsening climate change, we face a worldwide boom in oil demand, mainly due to China, India and Russia. OPEC and many experts believe there are high chances that prices will never again be less than US$ 100 per barrel.

11.          The annual World Energy Outlook is the International Energy Agency's flagship publication and it is widely recognized as the most authoritative energy source for global energy projections and analysis. The WEO received numerous awards[9] from governments and energy industry for its analytical excellence. It represents the leading source for medium to long-term energy market projections, extensive statistics, analysis and advice for both governments and the energy business. All statistics and projections are related to three scenarios: Current Policies Scenario; New Policies Scenario; and 450 Scenario.

12.          Current Policies Scenario[10] shows how the future might look on the basis of the perpetuation, without change, of the government policies and measures that had been enacted or adopted by mid-2011. The New Policies Scenario – the central scenario of the WEO 2011 – incorporates the broad policy commitments and plans that have been announced by countries around the world to tackle energy insecurity, climate change and local pollution, and other pressing energy related challenges, even where the specific measures to implement these commitments have yet to be announced. Those commitments include renewable energy and energy efficiency targets and support, programs relating to nuclear phase-out or additions, national pledges to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions communicated officially under the Cancun Agreements and the initiatives taken by G-20 and APEC economies to phase out inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.[11] The 450 Scenario[12], which sets out an energy pathway that is consistent with a 50% chance of meeting the goal of limiting the increase in average global temperature to two degrees Celsius (2°C), compared with pre-industrial levels. According to climate experts, to meet this goal it will be necessary to limit the long-term concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to around 450 parts per million of carbondioxide equivalent (ppmCO2-eq).

13.          The Figure 1 shows the Average IEA Crude Oil Import Price presented on WEO 2011 indicating that the minimum level of oil prices is around US$ 100 per barrel.

14.          What consequences will arise from the new price level?  Following an adequate energy policy, we can face the challenge assuring energy supply and promoting the rational use of the available sources.  However, if prices stay as high as they are now, above the level of 450 Scenario, there will be recession in many countries, due to the impact of energy prices in the economy as a whole, including food prices. There will be a stronger need for promoting energy conservation policies, expanding the frontier for oil prospection and exploiting currently producing fields efficiently, and, mainly, searching new renewable energy sources. This latter appears to be the most important weapon against the boom of agricultural commodities prices.

15.          One of the main conclusions of the WEO 2011 is that “the share of GDP spent on oil imports is generally even higher in oil-importing developing countries, because their economies are typically more oil intensive. Higher oil prices have weighed on growth in oil-importing countries by consuming a greater proportion of household and business expenditure. They have also put upward pressure on inflation, both directly, through increases in fuel prices, and indirectly, as prices of other goods have risen to reflect the higher input costs”. Any study intentioned to assess the relation of biofuels production and food security must acknowledge that the pressure on oil prices contributes to food insecurity. Inflationary impacts, according to IEA, have been most pronounced in the emerging economies, particularly in Asia, energy weighs relatively heavily in domestic consumer price indices.

16.          Energy security is a prerequisite to food security. The main task is to assess the better way to reduce the pressures on oil prices and reducing emissions at the same time, not counting on a naïve technological breakthrough on transport sector and on energy sources. Also, such a report should mention the bad consequences of agriculture subsidies in developed countries that undermine all efforts of establishing sustainable local arrangements of food production in poor countries.  

17.          Among other imprecise data about Brazil on the text, there is incorrect information on annex 1, page 61. Brazil currently uses B5 and currently there is no predefined calendar for B7 (2013), B10 (2014), and B20 (2020) as put. The Government position is that there is no room for B20 in Brazil. The Brazilian Energy Plan (PDE 2021) clearly shows that Brazil has no plan to increase the biodiesel mandatory percentage of 5% (B5). On the ethanol blend the correct range is E18-E25. The biodiesel and ethanol volume columns are apparently misplaced. Moreover, the correct data for ethanol demand for mandatory purposes (anhydrous ethanol) is 8.3 million m³ (2011). Also, there is no mandate in Brazil for hydrated ethanol production and use.

18.          The Ministry of Mines and Energy of Brazil reinforces the recommendation of a total review of the draft document “Biofuels and Food Security” before any deliberation or any assessment of FAO country experts.

[1] BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2012

'Light distillates' consists of aviation and motor gasolines and light distillate feedstock (LDF)

[2] Considering ethanol produced from sugarcane in tropical areas (7,5 m³/hectare)

[3] BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2012

'Middle distillates' consists of jet and heating kerosines, and gas and diesel oils (including marine bunkers)

[4] Considering biodiesel produced from palm oil in tropical areas (5 m³/hectare)

[5] It is not considered here any production of ethanol from lignocellulosic from sugarcane bagasse and straw and also any new sugarcane varieties

[6] FAO (2009) Global Potential Area for Agriculture = 3.23 billion hectares

[7] FAOSTAT (2013): Total Agricultural Area in 2011 = 1.381.204.040 hectares

[8] FAOSTAT (2013): Total Harvested Area in 2011 = 697.687.682 hectares

[10] World Energy Outlook 2011 – Published by International Energy Agency ( p. 55

[11] World Energy Outlook 2011 – Published by International Energy Agency ( p. 54

[12] World Energy Outlook 2011 – Published by International Energy Agency ( p. 55

[13] World Energy Outlook 2011 – Published by International Energy Agency (


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada ,
FSN Forum


The authors of the draft HLPE report on 'Biofuels and Food Security' have conducted a good review of the literature on this issue and consulted a wide variety of sources.  The country specific information, including in-depth considerations of specific feedstocks and their regional roles, is useful to those who are seeking to continue to understand and appreciate the evolving complexities of this subject and the specific linkages between biofuels and food security.  Also particularly useful are the appendices that set out country information with mandates, feedstock, etc.  

In line with the 2011 HLPE report on price volatility, food security is a complex matter with multiple dimensions which include rising incomes in the developing world, long term agricultural investment, and waste in the food system; issues which have received limited attention in this report.  In addition, the paper should consider trade policies that impact food security issues, such as export bans, hoarding of agricultural commodities and the short term manipulation of tariffs of agricultural goods, which can contribute to short term price volatility.

The paper notes in a number of places that biofuels is the "predominant" reason behind food prices and volatility and bases this claim on two basic reasons: (1) rise in oil price making biofuels more attractive (consequently driving grains toward ethanol production) and (2) supply unable to cope with demand.  Unfortunately the paper lacks adequate substantiation to support this claim. Rather, prevailing analysis leads us to understand that global biofuels production is one of many factors that affect the prices for agricultural commodities.  Other factors include: increasing demand from emerging economies, weather-related events in key grain growing regions, increased speculation in commodity markets, and volatile oil prices and transportation costs.  

There are some specific changes to be made to the information pertaining to Canada as set out in Appendix I, as follows:

  • Under the B% (biodiesel) heading, the notation should read: B2 (national) and up to B4 in 4 provinces; o   Under the Tools heading, the following should be inserted:  Capital and production incentives, and fund for next generation biofuels.
  • Under Main Feedstock, corn and wheat for ethanol; tallow, yellow grease, and canola for biodiesel.
  • Under Estimates of Government Subsidies, Including Mandates, for Biofuels, Estimates for government subsidies: $1.5 billion Federal Renewable Fuels Strategy.

Canada will look forward to the opportunity to review the next version of the report, when available.

Hans Morten Haugen Diakonhjemmet University College, Norway
Hans Morten Haugen

I do not know if this is too late, but a major problem is that many states with inadequate institutional capacities relating to effective land management do make overestimates on their available land. I have done a study on Tanzania, that can be found here:

A brief comment to the document: It lacks references to human rights impact and the due dilligence requierement for companies, as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (A/HRC/17/31), as well as the two standards by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food (A/HRC/19/59/Add.5, Appendix, Guiding principles on human rights impact assessments of trade and investment agreements and  A/HRC/13/33/Add.2, Annex: Large-scale land acquisitions and leases: A set of minimum principles and measures to address the human rights challenge). The subsequent resolutions in the Human Rights Council did not endorse these Guiding Principles, unlike those on Business and Human Rights, but no states voted against the resolutions which welcomed the reports within which the two standards were found.

Brazilian Government ,
FSN Forum

General Comments

The report is, at best, unbalanced. It has a clear bias against the production and use of biofuels. It seems that in its reasoning, assumptions and premises based on conjectures, speculations, widespread generalizations, fallacies and weak inferences are taken as correct in order to justify patronizing preconceptions and a predefined set of conclusions. In this sense, alleged negative impacts of biofuels are, as a rule, overestimated and generalized. On the other hand, evidences supporting the benefits of biofuels are promptly discarded or, in most cases, simply not taken into consideration. The report ignores that sustainable biofuels contributes to the promotion of food security, generating income and employment in rural areas, especially from developing countries in the tropical zone, stimulating increased productivity in agriculture as a whole, reducing the weight of oil and its derivatives in the costs of agricultural production, and finally, contributing to fight climate change, a phenomenon that can have disastrous consequences on world agricultural production.

Draft Policy Recommendations

Policy recommendations made in this section must be revised according to the comments and points brought to attention in the other sections of the document.

Considering the weaknesses of the evidences in which this conclusion is based, the assertion of the central role of biofuels in provoking high and volatile food prices is highly questionable. It is worth noting the significant correlation between oil prices and the international commodity market. In developed countries, oil and its derivatives account for about 27% of the cost of agricultural production. This number can reach 46% in the case of developing countries. Moreover, the great historical correlation between price volatility in these two markets - the peak of food prices over the past 4 decades coincides with the oil shocks - reinforces the argument that the use of biofuels contributes to the promotion of food security, once, as a substitute, it press down the price of oil and its derivatives.

Chapter 1: Biofuels Policies

In section 1.2, the report fails to take notice that neither Brazil (as a non-Annex I country) nor the US (as it did not ratify the Protocol) are bound by the commitments of Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol. Nonetheless, biofuels have an important role in meeting Brazil’s voluntary GHG emission reduction goals.

In the second paragraph of section 1.3 (New Dynamics to Biofuels in US and Brazil), a superficial value judgment is made on the justification of the biodiesel program in Brazil. There is not any reference to the rapid development of the biodiesel industry in Brazil, which in less than a decade became one of the top producers in the world, without impacting food production in the country. The study also fails to consider that oil accounts for just 20% of soy content, the remaining part consists, basically, of soybean meal, which is used for food and feed. In this sense, expanding soy production for biofuels increases food production in a 4 to 1 ratio.

The report also belittles the Social Fuel Seal initiative of the Brazilian Government. The Social Fuel Seal allows biodiesel producers who acquire a percentage of their feedstock from smallholders to receive certain fiscal incentives and to sell their biodiesel in national auctions to meet the blending requirement. In order to acquire the Social Fuel Seal, producers are required to fulfill three primary obligations: (i) procure a portion of their overall feedstock from smallholders, with the exact percentage required dependant upon the producer's regional location; (ii) negotiate and sign contracts with the family farmers providing their feedstock or an organization representing them; and (iii) include in the contracts the price of the feedstock as well as provision of technical assistance to the families. It is worth noting that 80% of the biodiesel consumed in Brazil comes from production units carrying the Social Fuel Seal.

No explanation is given to the assertion that 26% of the world’s total cropland would be required to supply a 10% blending mandate (Section 1.4). This number is clearly overestimated. According to the International Energy Agency, biofuels account for around 3% of road transports globally (IEA, Tracking Clean Energy Progress, 2012). At the same time, biofuels occupy less than 1% of total agricultural land. And even from the 30 million ha currently being used, a considerable amount of co-products are produced, such as cattle feed, or bio-electricity and heat (IEA, Future Biomass-based Transport Fuels, 2012). Productivity gains are also not taken into consideration. As an example, it is estimated that technologies for processing lignocellulosic biomass, such as sugarcane straw and bagasse, will be able to increase ethanol production in Brazil in up to 40%, without any land expansion (EMBRAPA, Circular Técnica 04, 2011).

In section 1.4.5, it should be mentioned that all forms of cooperation promoted by Brazil have a strong emphasis on social, economic and environmental sustainability. It is also worth noting that Brazil is sponsoring feasibility studies for the sustainable production and use of bioenergy in several countries in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean.

In section 1.4.6, it should be mentioned that Brazil has over 170 million hectares of pasture land allocated for livestock production, with an average density of just one head per hectare. Studies show that this very low average can be increased to up to 5 heads per hectare. The current process of intensification of cattle production is releasing several millions of hectares for agriculture, including biofuels production, without competition for new land or displacement of other crops. With only 1% of its arable land dedicated to sugarcane for ethanol production (4.6 million hectares), Brazil has been able to replace half of its gasoline demand, while still producing enough surplus to be the world's second largest exporter. In addition, to guide the sustainable expansion of the sugarcane production in the country, the Brazilian Government developed the Sugarcane Agroecological Zoning. This initiative, through a thorough study taking into account environmental, economic and social aspects, identified a total of 64.7 million hectares of feasible areas for sustainable sugarcane expansion (less than 8% of the Brazilian territory), excluding the most sensitive biomes, such as the Amazon and Pantanal.

Section 1.5 (“Land-Use Change” provokes Changes in EU targets and influences US Policy) besides making it clear that in October 2012 a new *proposal* to update the EU Directive on biofuels was presented and not issued (as stated in the text), this section should also draw attention to critiques on the proposed update to the EU biofuel policy. For instance, by limiting the use of food-based biofuels to 5%, the EU may block its market from more efficient biofuels, which can reduce up to 90% of GHG emissions. In addition, considering that second generation biofuels are not available in a commercial scale, this policy may lead to greater consumption of fossil fuels, increasing the European carbon footprint. The 5% cap on biofuels based on food crops may also hinder certification schemes, as there will not be an export market to compensate for the costs of compliance with the certification requirements. 

Another issue is related to the requirement to report ILUC emissions based on predefined values. It is well established that ILUC may vary according to several factors, such as production practices, the technology employed, soil condition, original biodiversity, among others. More importantly, it can be prevented by adopting sound sustainability guidelines and policies, which, of course, increase the cost of production. However, by adopting a predefined ILUC factor for each crop group, no incentive is given for sustainably produced biofuels.

Chapter 2: Biofuels and the Technology Frontier


Given the large amount of available raw materials and the logistic infrastructure already in place, it is presumed that large scale production of second generation biofuels will be firstly based on sugarcane bagasse and straw. In this sense, it is important to highlight that second generation biofuels will complement the production of traditional biofuels, by improving the productivity, and not replace them. 

On page 18, the phrasing has an unnecessary negative tone when mentioning the emission reductions from biofuels (“a goal allegedly pursued by the production of biofuels”). In Brazil, in 2003 alone, the emission of 27.5 million tons carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was prevented due to the gasoline replacement by ethanol (Goldemberg; Coelho; Guardabassi, 2008). Considering that Brazilian sugarcane ethanol share in world biofuels production is close to 20% (REN21, 2012) and that, according to table 2 of the report (page 18), emission reductions from sugarcane ethanol may be as high as 105%, it is hard to dismiss that biofuels have a considerable potential for reducing GHG emissions.

In Brazil, from 1975 to 2009, the use of ethanol to replace gasoline generated savings of over a billion barrels of oil equivalent, avoiding the emission of 800 million tons of CO². According to assessments based on life cycle analysis (LCA), Brazilian sugarcane ethanol reduces emissions of greenhouse gases by more than 80% in substitute for gasoline. It is estimated that 100 million tons of sugarcane avoid 12.6 million tons of CO2-eq, deriving from ethanol, bagasse and bioelectricity generated.

It is important to highlight that the data from table 2 of the report clearly indicates that second generation biofuels do not necessarily have more substantial greenhouse gas savings than conventional biofuels.

Chapter 3: Biofuels, Food Prices, Hunger & Poverty

In the first paragraph it is not mentioned that several studies were more cautious about the estimated impact of biofuels on crop prices, placing more weight on macroeconomic factors, such as exchange rates, grain storage policies and market speculation (GEA, 2012).  The lack of references of opposite views may indicate that either the report has failed to do a thorough analysis of the available literature or that it has been opted to consider only negative views.

According to a study from FAO (Global food losses and food waste, 2011), roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. A recent report suggests that as much as half of all the food produced in the world – equivalent to 2 billion tonnes – ends up as waste every year (Global Food Waste Not Want Not, 2013). Considering this figures as well as the fact that biofuels occupy less than 1% of total agricultural land, it is reasonable to assume that the alleged competition between food and fuel is grossly exaggerated and neomalthusian. Furthermore, the report fails to comment on other externalities, such as the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which has serious implications for the longer-term prospects for the development of a food and agricultural sector in Africa capable of lifting the majority of the rural poor out of poverty.

The calculation on the estimated crop energy that will be required by biofuels in 2020 does not seem to take into account the expected increases in productivity, as well as the availability of expressive amounts of land for the sustainable expansion of biofuel production. According to FAO (2006), higher yields and increased cropping intensity are expected to contribute with 90% of the crop production growth by 2050. To meet the expected biofuel demand in 2050, a report from the International Energy Agency (2012) estimates that 100 million hectares of arable land will be required, an area equivalent to 2% of the total agricultural land today. This means that land use will increase three-fold, whereas biofuel production will grow 10 times in the next 40 years.

In section 3.2, it is stated that “our analysis indicates that biofuels have played a predominant role in the increases in food prices and volatility since 2004”. The reasoning presented to support this statement is noticeably flawed, as no assessment is made of the level of impact of any other possible factors and externalities that may have had a role in increases in food prices. Without any kind of measure indication, the aforementioned statement can be dismissed as a mere speculation. Besides, it is not mentioned that different biofuels may have different impacts. By not considering these points, any conclusion will be mostly based on assumptions and in clear generalization.

In the assumption that maize ethanol producers have bid up the price of ethanol, no comment is made on the apparent lack of a substitution effect in biofuel demand, considering the availability of sugarcane ethanol.

 In section 3.3.1, it is mentioned that “some world average crop part of the price increase has been overestimated by focusing on dollars”. However, no indication is made on how much it has been overestimated.

In section 3.4, shallow and oversimplified explanations are given to dismiss all alternative explanations for the rise in agricultural commodity prices as inadequate.  Nonetheless, some contradictions appear when it is recognized that “some of these models may turn out to be accurate predictors of long-term consequences for biofuels”. If they may prove to be accurate, then it would be unreasonable to dismiss them as “inadequate”.

Several explanations are based on assumptions, without indication of the grounds in which these assumptions are believed to be correct. Example: “In fact, much of the rising costs of production came in the form of non-fuel input costs, which were probably driven by rising demand than by rising energy causes” (page 34).

In section 3.4.3, the reasoning for minimizing the impact of speculation seems to not take into account that crop production is not constant. Therefore, for speculators to drive up the prices of stocks, not necessarily will there be an overall increase in stock volumes.

In the previous section (3.4.2), economic models are considerate inadequate, however accurate over the long-term, because they have little to say about short-term increases (Page34). By recognizing that “speculation may very well be increasing volatility in the short term” (page 35), it seems incongruent to pinpoint biofuels as the main reason for price rises.

A recent study from the Institute of Economic Affairs, in Britain, shows that by abolishing direct EU subsidies to farmers the level of food production would increase and prices would be driven down. The EU is currently spending €55 billion on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This budget is planned to increase to €63 billion by 2020. Nonetheless, in the present report no reference is made to the impacts of increasing agriculture subsidies in developed countries. It is also not considered that high crop prices in the short-term may act as a driver for increased crop production.

The summary explanation of recent price rises is an example of non sequitur logic. It is pointed that the rise in prices largely reflects the difficulty that supply has had in keeping with demand. Considering that no data is provided on changes on land area dedicated for food production, it can only be speculated that biofuels may have increased the scope and rate of the rise in demand, much less inferred that biofuels played a predominant role in driving up prices. Considering that Brazil is the second largest ethanol producer in the world and that displacement of food crops by sugarcane in that country is dismissed as a myth without real background (IEA 2012), any allegation about the role of biofuels, without distinction, in driving up food prices will be exaggerated.

Section 3.5 (Future biofuel demand and price effects) does not consider the possibility of sustainable expansion of land area dedicated from biofuels production (sugarcane for ethanol production in Brazil can expand over 10 times its current cultivated area) as well as substantive productivity gains (studies indicate that lignocellulosic ethanol from sugarcane bagasse and straw will increase production in up to 40%; new, more productive, sugarcane varieties are being developed as well).

Ethanol exports to Brazil over the last couple of years are mostly due to the impacts of weather conditions on the sugarcane production and are not a reflection of a limited capacity of Brazil to produce ethanol both for its own market and the U.S.

Chapter 4: Biofuels and Land

In section 4.1.1, by assuming that world cropland expansion of 69 million hectares by 2050 will be “hard to achieve”, the report fails to consider the availability of idle land, the possibility of conversion of large amounts of low intensity pasture land to crop production,  as well as the adoption of integrated crop-livestock farming systems. In Brazil alone, the reduction of lands dedicated to extensive cattle grazing, due to an ongoing process of intensification of cattle production, may release close to 100 million hectares of pastures for other uses (assuming that only half of the possible increase in the average number of cattle heads per hectare is reached). Implying that the conversion from grazing would sacrifice soil carbon seems to dismiss the possibility of adoption of adequate soil management practices. In this sense, statements concerning “substation environmental losses” can be dismissed as speculation.

The last paragraph of page 39 is based on a neo-Malthusian argument of competition for land between food, feed, timber in the world, which is simply incorrect. Only 11% of the dry surface of the world’s land is used for agriculture, and only 1% of this area is currently dedicated to the cultivation of feedstock for biofuels. In Brazil, whose territory totals 851 Mha², the agricultural lands occupy about 70 Mha². Of the total cultivated land, sugarcane culture occupies about 9 Mha², of which about 5.1 Mha² (57%) are currently used to produce ethanol, which represents only about 8% of the total cultivated area of the country, and just over 1% of arable land. Besides, the expansion of biofuel production in recent years has been done judiciously in Brazil, with the use of policies such as agroecological zoning. Moreover, between 2004 and 2009, Brazil increased by more than 15% its grain cultivation, while that ethanol production has doubled (according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, since 1991 the productivity of Brazilian agriculture grew at a 5.4% rate per year), with a 7% increase in agricultural land. The biggest challenge in addressing the structural causes of food insecurity is therefore access to food and not the failure of food production derived from land competition.

The section dedicated to ILUC draws flawed conclusions. There is no scientific consensus on how to define and calculate ILUC. In addition, ILUC may vary according to several factors, such as production practices, the technology employed, soil condition, original biodiversity, among others. More importantly, it can be prevented or mitigated by adopting sound sustainability guidelines and policies. Sustainability assessment should be based strictly on the biofuel production chain being analyzed, limited to the direct effects of its production.

Section 4.1.2 (Bioenergy) tries to imply that bioenergy is inefficient. However, it does not seem to consider the large amount of already available biomass from agricultural residues.

The conclusion that “any effort to produce meaningful quantities of bioenergy would result in large-scale competition with the use of land for other human needs of carbon storage” is a speculation based on false premises. According to REN21 (2012), bioenergy, including biomass and biofuels, accounts for over 10% of global primary energy supply and is the world’s largest source of renewable energy. In Brazil, bioenergy accounts for more than 25% of the national energy mix.

The broad and patronizing statement that “food insecurity for the local community is often the principal result of large-scale biofuels land deals” is not backed by any data.

The final section (4.2.4) seems to contain a contradiction. Despite all the statements implying that biofuels impacts are greater in developing countries, it is recognized that biofuels promotion can be beneficial to rural development and energy security.

Chapter 5: Social Implications Of Biofuels

          Section 5.2 states that “The women lost a portion of their income derived from collecting forest products, and also lost the raw materials from which they made handicrafts for sale.” However, collecting forest products and traditional biomass for cooking can be extremely harmful from the environmental, social and economic perspectives.

Traditional cooking fuels (mainly wood, charcoal and dung) are still used by 2.5 billion people around the world[1]  and compound as much as 90% of household energy consumption in least developed countries. Their incomplete burning releases large amounts of pollutants in close environments, increasing risks of respiratory diseases by one third and causing 1.6 million deaths annually, 50% of which of children under the age of five[2].

In addition to health effects, their way-of-production causes environmental, social and economic impact. Extensive areas are still deforested every year for charcoal and wood-fire production in vast regions. Women - traditionally responsible for obtaining fuel – are taken away from home for long periods, increasing the exposure of children to accidents, violence and abuse and taking much valuable household time and effort to fuel collection instead of education or income generation, jeopardizing social and economic development. On top of this, they provide slow-speed, inefficient cooking and both their production and consumption emits considerable amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG). According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves[3], more than 2 million people die every year due to the consequences of indoor air pollution, with women and children suffering the vast majority of this burden.

Modern bioenergy (such as biofuels), however, present very positive socioeconomic effects, including for women. Regarding the socioeconomic impacts of this sector, the most significant is precisely the creation of employment and income for a large portion of the population with different educational levels, which permits more energy and food access and security. For instance, in Brazil, sustainable sugarcane production enables significant improvements in the socioeconomic region in which it operates. In this sense, the importance of the jobs generated by the sugarcane sector in Brazil can be highlighted by the following indicators: (i) sugarcane cultivation employs large number of formal workers (81%), a much higher rate in comparison with the average rate in the agricultural sector (40%); (ii) inclusion of workforce with low skills (approximately 24% is illiterate); (iii) one quarter of national production comes from 70 thousand independent producers of sugarcane; (iv) 50% of the harvest is mechanized in the country; (v) the 440 plants employ about 600,000 workers, and; (vi) reduction of child labor (child labor corresponded to 0.3% in 2009). The sector as a whole, is responsible for 1.2 million direct jobs and moves $ 48 billion (equivalent to 2% of the GDP).

Besides the obvious relationship between energy security and food security, the co-generation of electricity and the replacement of imported oil for the biofuel produced locally provide significant savings in foreign exchange, which can be directed to the import of capital goods essential for investment in productive sectors and in benefits for the population. The Brazilian experience serves to illustrate these benefits. It is estimated that between 1975 and 2005, the replacement of gasoline by ethanol amounted to savings of US$ 60.7 billion.

          In section 5.3, certification is discussed. It is important to mention that certification schemes are increasingly complex and expensive, which may create niche market places that hinder independent and small producers from the market. In Brazil, for instance, producers adopt alternative sustainability instruments, such as the soy moratorium, which since 2006 (renewed in 2014) restricts the production of oilseeds in the Amazon using satellite monitoring.

          Besides, GBEP’s work is not properly presented in this section. It is not, as the authors would have us believe, a certification process, but its 24 indicators on sustainability present criteria for environmental, social and economic production and use of bioenergy, helping the transition away from the unsustainable, traditional ways of deriving energy from biomass and towards the sustainable production and use of modern bioenergy. The report “GBEP Sustainability Indicators for Bioenergy”, finalized in December 2011, was developed to provide relevant, practical, science-based, voluntary sustainability indicators to guide any analysis of bioenergy undertaken at the domestic level and to be used with a view to informing decision making and facilitating the sustainable development of bioenergy, in contrast to sustainability schemes designed for application at the project or economic operator level (certification). It is the only initiative seeking to build consensus among a broad range of national governments and international institutions on the sustainability of bioenergy.

GBEP set of 24 sustainability indicators and its methodology sheets include supporting information relating to the relevance, practicality and scientific basis of each indicator, including suggested approaches for their measurement:


GBEP’s work on sustainability indicators was developed under the following three pillars,  noting interlinkages between them:


Greenhouse gas emissions, Productive capacity of the land and ecosystems, Air quality, Water availability, use efficiency and quality, Biological diversity, Land-use change, including indirect effects.

  1. Life-cycle GHG emissions
  2.  Soil quality
  3.  Harvest levels of wood resources
  4. Emissions of non-GHG air pollutants, including air toxics
  5. Water use and efficiency
  6. Water quality
  7. Biological diversity in the landscape
  8. Land use and land-use change related to bioenergy feedstock production


Price and supply of a national food basket, Access to land, water and other natural resources, Labour conditions, Rural and social development, Access to energy, Human health and safety.


  1. Allocation and tenure of land for new bioenergy production
  2. Price and supply of a national food basket
  3. Change in income
  4. Jobs in the bioenergy sector
  5. Change in unpaid time spent by women and children collecting biomass
  6. Bioenergy used to expand access to modern energy services
  7. Change in mortality and burden of disease attributable to indoor smoke
  8. Incidence of occupational injury, illness and fatalities


Resource availability and use efficiencies in bioenergy production, conversion, distribution and end-use, Economic development, Economic viability and competitiveness of bioenergy, Access to technology and technological capabilities, Energy security/Diversification of sources and supply, Energy security/Infrastructure and logistics for distribution and use.

  1. Productivity
  2.  Net energy balance
  3. Gross value added
  4. Change in consumption of fossil fuels and traditional use of biomass
  5. Training and re-qualification of the workforce
  6. Energy diversity
  7. Infrastructure and logistics for distribution of bioenergy
  8. Capacity and flexibility of use of bioenergy

          Therefore, we can see that the social indicators of GBEP are not all correctly cited by the CFS Report (page 52). It also states that “Willingness to reach agreement was also reached with relation to the following points although further discussion is still required: - Food security, - Labor conditions, - Access to land, water and other natural resources, - Household income” (page 52). As we can see in GBEP Charter above, indicator 10 covers food security, indicators 16 and 21 cover labor conditions, indicators 5, 6 and 8 cover access to land, water and other natural resources and indicator 11 covers household income.  

Appendix I

          There is incorrect data about Brazil on the table beginning on page 61. Officially Brazil adopts B5, so on the “mandate column”, “B% (biodiesel)”, there should be eliminated the expression “under discussion B7 (2013), B10 (2014), B20 (2020)”. On the ethanol blend E% (ethanol)” the correct range is E18-E25. On the column “biofuels mandatory target”, the biodiesel and ethanol volume columns are misplaced and should be interchanged. Besides, the correct data for ethanol target is 8,3 million m3 (2011), considering only anhydrous ethanol is mandatory (there is no mandate for hydrated ethanol production and use).

Additional references suggested:

Goldemberg, J., Coelho, S. T., Guradabsssi, P. (2008). The sustainability of ethanol production from sugarcane. Energy Policyjcr, v. 36, p. 2086-2097, 2008.

Coelho, S. T., Agbenyega, O.,  Agostini, A., Erb, K., Haberl, H.,  Hoogwijk, M., Lal, R., Lucon, O. S., Masera, O., Moreira, J. R. (2012). Land and Water. Linkages to Bioenergy. In Global Energy Assessment. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Cambridge University Press. Vienna

GEA (2012) Global Energy Assessment – Towards a Sustainable Energy Future. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK and New York, NY, USA and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxemburg, Austria. Available at

Sen, A. K.(2000)  Development as Freedom. 1st ed. First Anchor Books Edition. 2000. New York.

BNDES/CGEE/ECLAC/FAO, Sugarcane bioethanol: energy for sustainable development, Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social, Rio de Janeiro, 2008. Available in

IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) Censo Agropecuário (Agriculture and livestock census), Rio de Janeiro, 2008. Available in

Leal, MRLV, Nogueira, LAH, Cortez, LAB, Land demand for ethanol production, Applied Energy 102, 2013. doi: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2012.09.037

Leite, RCC, Leal, MRLV, Cortez, LAB, Griffin, WM, Scandiffio, MIG, Can Brazil replace 5% of the 2025 gasoline world demand with ethanol? Energy, 34(5), 2009. doi: 10.1016/

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Wicke, B.; Sikkema, R.; Dornburg, V.; Junginger, M. and Faaij, A., (2008). Drivers of land use change and the role of palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia. Overview of past developments and future projections Final Report. Universiteit Utrecht, Copernicus Institute Science, Technology and Society. NWS-E-2008-58, ISBN 978-90-8672-032-3,.

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MAPA, Embrapa, Conab, MMA et al. (2009). Sugarcane Agro-ecological Zoning. National Coordination Group: Strapasson, A.B.; Caldas, C.J.; Manzatto, C.V. et al. Published by the Brazilian Government: Presidential Decree 6.961/2009; Portaria MAPA Ministerial Decree n. 333/2007 andNormative Instruction 57/2009Bacen Resolution 3.813/2009 and Resolution 3.814/2009Federal Law Project 6.077/2009Maps and GIS database edited by Embrapa Soils. Booklet and  video published in EnglishSpanishPortuguese and French versions by Casa Civil (Presidency of Republic’s Chief Office). Brasília, Brazil.

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[1] International Energy Agency, 2006

[2] Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 33, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 70-78



 C'est avec beaucoup d'intérêt que l’Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA) fait parvenir ses commentaires dans le cadre de la consultation sur le document du Groupe d’experts de haut niveau de (HLPE) pour déterminer l’axe de son étude. L’AQLPA se préoccupe depuis plusieurs années des choix offerts en transport, étant donné leur impact sur la qualité de l’air, mais également sur les autres questions environnementales et sociales. L’AQLPA fait également la promotion du biométhane comme biocarburant produit à partir de déchets organiques et se déclare très critique des agrocarburants, que ce soit de l’éthanol ou du biodiésel, ainsi que des biocarburants dits de 2e génération (cellulosique, déchets agricoles) lorsqu’il s’agit de biodiésel et surtout d’éthanol. L’AQLPA trouve écho à plusieurs de ses préoccupations dans le document du HLPE, entre autres sa position sur le fait de limiter, voire éliminer, toute subvention et soutien pour les agrocarburants.


3.      Intégrer le biogaz dans l’analyse des biocarburants dans l’ensemble des questions traitées par le HLPE, en comparant les divers impacts avec l’éthanol et le biodiésel et en considérant que celui-ci peut également remplacer le gaz naturel non-conventionnel (gaz de schiste);

4.      Proposer d’éliminer les subventions et incitatifs à l’éthanol et au biodiésel en soutenant plutôt le développement du biogaz produit à partir de déchets organiques par capture (sites d’enfouissement), biodigesteurs ou par gazéification (déchets forestiers) avec retour vers l’agriculture ou la foresterie;

5.      Dans l’analyse des impacts cumulés de l’alimentation avec les demandes en eau, bois et terres en lien avec les agrocarburants, ajouter celle des changements climatiques, en tenant compte de façon différenciée des impacts sur les femmes et les hommes;

6.      Lors de la certification, exiger également que soit indiquée la source de production du biocarburant (culture énergétique, cellulosique, déchets, etc.);

7.      Dans la recommandation 9 du HLPE, inclure l’impact sur le femmes de l’utilisation des terres marginales à des fins de culture énergétique;

8.      Tenir compte de la faible réduction des émissions de gaz à effet de serre lors de l’utilisation de l’éthanol et du biodiésel dans une proportion de 5 à 10 %, en comparaison avec les véhicules hybrides électriques (plug-in ou non) et des dangers en lien avec la santé dans l’utilisation massive de véhicules avec E-85 (85 % éthanol et 15 % d’essence).

Robynne Anderson International Agri Food Network, Canada

Comments on the High Level Panel of Experts Report

On Biofuels by the Private Sector Mechanism

January 30, 2013

The Biofuels report has several areas of sound analysis, but the private sector notes with concern that many of the policy recommendations do not draw upon that analysis.

Currently the report does not distinguish between well considered economic consensus and more peripheral or theoretical views.  Weighting of the analysis should reflect it gravitas and consensus rather than its capacity for soothsaying.

The policy section should be reconsidered in the next draft and the private sector mechanism offers the following points to close considerable gaps:

  • The most recent report on 'The State of Food Insecurity in the World' for 2012, compiled by the WFP, IFAD and the FAO, highlights the importance of agricultural development. It states that investments in agriculture generate more economic growth in developing countries than investments in any other sector, which in turn would benefit the poor and undernourished. A high agricultural commodity price level is considered core to the development strategy. Other crucial issues are investments into the infrastructure, and long-term security for farmers, i.e. clear ownership rights, education and political stability, meaning, for example, that the farmers also benefit from higher prices, rather than this income being lost along the chain due to corruption, waste etc.  In 2005, the FAO also stated that ‘the long-term downward trend in agricultural commodity prices threatens the food security of hundreds of millions of people in some of the world’s poorest developing countries’. This was reflecting real concern about the lack of investment in agriculture and the insufficient positive signals given to farmers to enhance production.
  • Higher food prices and high demand for farm products – going into food, feed or biofuels markets -  have made a considerable impact on farm incomes and therefore rural poverty.  This point is essential to the report.
  • There is almost no discussion of trade and government export bans etc and their role in food price volatility, nor of the role of limited stocks.  Any discussion on price impacts must be put into this context.
  • Only 2-3 % of global farmland is dedicated to the cultivation of biofuel crops.  Global agricultural production can also be increased without laying claim to additional, ecologically valuable land. Figures on exactly how much potential farmland is currently lying fallow vary. 'Diverse studies of global land cover and potential productivity suggest that anywhere from 600 million to more than 7 billion additional acres of under-utilized rural lands are available for expanding rain-fed crop production around the world, after excluding the 4 billion acres of cropland currently in use, as well as the world’s supply of closed forests, nature reserves, and urban lands. Hence, on a global scale, land per se is not an immediate limitation for agriculture and biofuels.’  Kline, K., Dale V. H., Lee R. and Leiby P. 2009: In Defense of Biofuels, Done Right. In: Issues in Science and Technology. Spring 2009 (Volume 25, Issue 3, pages 75-84) The evidence on land use change is still evolving – policy recommendations in this area should be very cautious and should look at empirical evidence:  what land use had actually changed, and why. 
  • The report gives the impression that there is an inherent conflict between food security and first generation biofuels.  Yet these are not mutually exclusive outcomes.   The demand incentive for biofuels from food crops in recent years has led directly to greater crop production and productivity improvements and investment in the agricultural supply chain.  This can be seen for example in the EU in terms of increased rapeseed production for biodiesel, and in the US, particularly with corn use for ethanol.   Mandates and targets set at moderate levels have served a key role in encouraging such investment and should not be seen in the negative light portrayed in this report.  
  • There is a suggestion that biofuels in developing countries is being driven by developed market demand.  However, biofuels from Africa are not flowing to the EU, nor is much soy oil from Argentina.  The EU imports of Argentine soy meal are driven by vegetable protein deficiency in the market.  The report needs correction in light of real trade figures. The US, Canada, and Brazil are using their domestic production.
  • Biofuels policies can also play an important role in helping to deal with supply side shocks when these occur, with what may be increasing regularity in the future.   As one example, in the US the demand for grain use for ethanol production is not inelastic.  Under the US Renewable Fuel Standard, fuel suppliers are able to roll over 20% of their current year blending obligation into the following year.  This provides flexibility when there are supply side constraints.   Moreover, the impact of ethanol production on the increase in grain demand is largely over-estimated.  Increased global demand for grain is driven by various factors, including greater use in feed consumption, particularly in China, not principally by ethanol demand.
  • First generation biofuel production has provided incentives for making agriculture more sustainable and more productive all over the world, thereby considerably increasing the global productivity potential of agriculture.  For example, standards in some regions have been put in place to prevent any negative ecological and social effects potentially associated with the production of biofuels. This means the cultivation of crops for biofuel production and the production processes themselves are meeting high standards that often go beyond those applied to food or livestock feed production in some places.
  • The co-products from food crop based biofuels production are key to supporting food security but this is not fully reflected either in the overall debate, or in many of the studies on Indirect Land Use Change.   As one example, in Germany the increased cultivation of rapeseed has contributed significantly to reducing dependence on protein imports for feed and livestock production.   Around 50-60% of rapeseed is protein meal. Rapeseed meal is not the only useful by-product from rapeseed processing. Lecithin and glycerine are other co-products which are important raw materials for the food and the pharmaceutical industry.   The same is true of corn, where increased cultivation had also led to significant amounts of co-products for the feed industry. There is a missing piece of analysis on farm efficiencies and waste, including manure use.
  • Biofuels crops can provide a valuable part of crop rotations and income risk management for farmers in various regions. For example, in Europe, oilseed rape is the only extensively cultivated leaf vegetable that can increase the usually tight grain crop rotation cycles and is extremely important for increasing soil fertility, and topsoil formation.
  • All ag production should be socially and environmentally sustainable but that does not mean everything should be under certification schemes which can add unnecessary costs into supply chains.  Certification works for supply chains outside of mainstream supply;  once you go mainstream it is not the most efficient way of doing things.
  • There is little discussion of policy waivers – where you can stop using crops for biofuels at a certain price level – yet this would be the most pragmatic next step on policy.  Policy waivers and which ones work best are not well understood.
  • The only current large scale alternative to first generation biofuels in liquid transport fuels are fossil fuels.  Despite the investments in advanced biofuels research and development, they are neither commercially nor technologically viable to meet current or future mainstream transport fuel demand.   Abolishing biofuels mandates would lead simply to more use of fossil fuels in the medium term. (i.e. up to 2020 and beyond). 

Specific Comments

Executive summary

Page 7 – reference to country typologies being a starting point for biofuels policies.   This doesn’t seem to include either trade or energy resources as part of the analysis.

Page 8 – the “division of labour” argument between developing and developed countries does not seem well conceived. The paragraph which starts off with wood and talks about biorefineries seems not well grounded.

Page 9 – the paragraph that “ a substantial fraction of each ton of crop diverted to biofuels comes out of consumption by the poor”  needs thorough substantiation.    Many of the really poor are not touched by commercial markets.

  • The paragraph that bioethanol is responsible for the increase in the price of corn since 2004 – needs thorough substantiation.  It is clearly one factor but there are a lot of others, particularly as virutally all commodities have seen price rises, including those not used for biofuels.

Page 10 – The references to land grabbing.  Authoritative sources are needed here as to how much this is really to do with biofuels.  Early analysis by World Bank would suggest it is much more a matter of foreign national governments trying to secure food production for thier people.

Draft policy recommendations

P13 – para 1.      “the central role of biofuels in provoking high and volatile prices”   is not fully substantiated by this report in its current state.   Therefore the policy outcome that its growth needs to be controlled is not well grounded.   


  • Para 2.  The “massive displacement of traditional communities” needs substantiating.  This is not all biofuels related.
  • Paras 6 and 7    The reference to using only certification schemes that are multistakeholder is not practical or accurate.  Certification is about other things than responsible land use, and there are other ways of dealing with responsible land use than certification.  Certification is only one option. There are other ways of ensuring sustainable ag such as regulatory standards, incentives, and other government interventions.   Certification is a way of loading costs into the supply chain – the added value needs to be very clear.
  • Para 8 – the typologies reference seems to exclude both trade  - which seems to go down the self sufficiency route – and also energy policy and other energy sources.
  • Para 9 – the idea that the developing world is a biomass provider to the developed world in biofuels discussions is nonsense.  The US grows its own corn.  Europe grows its own rapeseed.  Sure there is some trade in biofuels feedstocks but it is small – because biomass is fundamentally expensive to transport.


P17   - There is a reference to the EU having an increasing level of food imports due to climate insecurity.   This needs substantiating: the EU is the world’s biggest importer and exporter of food and ag products.

P18-19   - The section on the EU is somewhat misleading.   The EU has always imported soybeans primarily for the meal.  

P25 – Again the reference to Argentina is misleading because the key driver is the demand for meal. 

P26 – the EU has issued a proposal – it is not agreed yet. Biofuels policies remain somewhat experimental and changing – look at all the different ones in member states of the EU as one example.

The whole piece about “emerging global market for biofuel” seems mistaken.   The idea of a dedicated attempt at a global market just doesn’t ring true.

P27 – the country typology model seems to ignore trade issues and anything to do with other energy resources. 

P32 – the speculation about the location of second generation biofuels seems confused and unhelpful.  It is only speculative and cannot be grounded in research. While best removed from the report, at a minimum it must also point to the improvements that second generation biofuels could offer.

P34 – There are various models around trying to estimate indirect land use change:  this remains an emerging science and the models should be treated with caution.   The argument about the effect on the hungry is highly complex and inadequately draws conculsions regarding biofuels.  The numbers of the hungry fluctuate and factors such as political stability, local weather, and other factors are key – both in price and availability.  Biofuels demand is only a small factor in price and in some regions minimally so.  In areas of hunger, few have access to commercial markets – so they are much more impacted by local factors.   Also the idea that there is a commonly accepted target that the world should produce 10% of its transport fuels from biofuels is absolutely not established and should not be stated as fact. 

P35 – the demand for biofuels is part of the increased demand that has happened since about 2004.   It is a new source of demand but it is the combined demand on food crops that is important vis a vis supply.   The reason that the supply response to the increased demand has been sluggish has many factors – ranging from stagnating yields to government export bans that disincentivised farmers to produce more.    

It is also important to remember that there has been underinvestment in agriculture because prices were previously low – some of the price increase was a necessary correction to ensure that investment again started to be attracted to the agricultural sector.

Biofuels and Land

Overall - The science of indirect land use change is new and evolving and not currently a sound basis for policy.

P55 – There are some sweeping generalisations about foreign investments that need to be grounded in fact and less conjecture.  For instance, the idea that one third to two thirds of all investments in land are linked to biofuels, particularly when it is still a first generation industry, seems unlikely and is difficult to sustain.

P63 – Certification schemes.    These are presented as the only means of social compliance but there are other ways involving governments and different policy and law enforcement.  More options are needed that better suit a range of national situations and sectors.

Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association

São Paulo, 29 January 2013

To: The HLPE Project Team and Steering Committee

Ref: Comments on V0 the HLPE draft Report: Biofuels and Food Security

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) is the leading trade association for the sugarcane industry in Brazil, representing nearly two-thirds of all sugarcane production and processing in the country.  The organization’s 130 member companies are the top producers of sugar, ethanol, renewable electricity and other sugarcane-based products in Brazil’s South-Central region, the heart of the sugarcane industry. Brazil is the world’s largest sugarcane grower, with over half a billion metric tons of cane harvested yearly. In 2012, Brazil produced over 31 million tons of sugar and about 26 billion liters (6.8 billion gallons) of ethanol. In addition, mills generate their own power from the sugarcane biomass. Official government data shows that cane processing mills produced approximately 16,000 GWh of electricity last year, the equivalent of about 3% of the country’s annual electricity demand.


Dear Members of the HLPE Project Team and of the Steering Committee,

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on V0 of the HLPE draft report on Biofuels and Food security.

We welcome the initiative taken by the UN Committee on Food Security to commission a science-based comparative literature analysis to explore the nexus between biofuels and food security. However, we regret that the work undertaken by the HLPE is not scientifically robust and has not been carried out with the rigor this important topic deserves. In fact, the report does not describe the methodology that has been used to conduct the literature review.

In our opinion, the lack of a clear methodology has induced a strong bias in the selection of the analytical works that have been taken into consideration. The report clearly focuses on possible negative impacts of biofuels on food security and other sustainability aspects. Positive effects of bioenergy production that are documented in a number of scientific studies should also be considered to guarantee the scientific robustness of this report.

Although Brazil is cited in many parts of the report, Brazilian reference studies on biofuels are almost inexistent. Brazil was a world pioneer in the production and use of biofuels and is the world’s second-largest ethanol producer. With almost 40 years of experience with biofuels, the literature published by Brazilian scientists on biofuels production impacts and policies is extremely rich.

We are pleased to provide in annex a list of Brazilian and international bibliographic references we highly recommend the project team to consider.

We would also like to provide specific comments on the draft report in order to correct or complement some of the information it contains.

1.      P.6 Modern biofuels markets emerged in response to the two oil price hikes in the 1970s. Various countries responded with proposals for alternative fuels policies but the two countries which created a biofuels ethanol market and a biofuels productive sector in this period were Brazil and the US, the former using sugar-cane and the latter corn. In both cases the defense of the interests of powerful agricultural and agro-industrial sectors was key, but these interests coincided with broader strategic goals to reduce levels of energy dependence.

As shown in the graph below, sugar and ethanol production have both grown substantially and simultaneously since the introduction of the Brazilian ethanol program in the 1970s. The intention of this program was also to make Brazil a large producer and exporter of sugar.



[Please see the attachment for the graphs, Ed.]

Sources: UNICA and Brazilian Agriculture Ministry (MAPA)

2.      P.8 In addition, and in counterpart to the large-scale monoculture model of sugar-cane ethanol production, the Brazilian government launched a biodiesel program formally justified in terms of social inclusion and rural development.

Regarding the social impacts of sugarcane large-scale production, it is important to take into account that this model requires significant manpower and machinery for cultivation, harvesting and processing. The Brazilian sugarcane industry employs over one million people, or nearly a quarter of the country’s total rural workforce. Salaries for sugarcane industry workers are also among the highest in Brazilian agriculture.

In addition to income levels, Brazilian sugarcane provides an important social contribution in terms of geographical income distribution. No less than 1,042 municipalities produce sugarcane and/or ethanol, six times higher than the number of municipalities producing petroleum and/or processing its derivatives in the country. (Azanha, M., et. al. Social Externalities of Fuels. In. Ethanol and bioelectricity: Sugarcane in the future of the energy matrix / [coordination and supervision Eduardo L. de Sousa and Isaias de Carvalho Macedo; English translation Brian Nicholson]. – São Paulo: Unica, 2011.)

It is also important to recall that sugarcane is a semi-perennial crop. Sugarcane fields are renewed every 5 to 6 years on average. Before sugarcane is replanted, annual crops, such as oilseeds, are commonly cultivated, contributing to the maintenance of soil quality.

Around 1/6 of the sugarcane area is set aside for that purpose every year, quite often producing food. São Paulo State, for example, is the biggest producer of peanuts in Brazil, accounting for 83% of the country´s total production, just by using this oilseed as a rotation for sugarcane (IBGE, Sidra System,, accessed on Jan 28th 2013).

In order to efficiently process sugarcane, the areas used for cane cultivation need to be located near the sugar/ethanol mills (at a distance of approximately 30 km) otherwise quality losses are significant. The proximity between fields and the mills where the cane is processed enables the transportation and use of the majority of residues from processing (i.e. filter cake) as organic fertilizers. This significantly reduces the use of fossil-based chemicals. This characteristic is a sine qua non condition for several important production practices that result in reduced environmental impacts of sugarcane production.

3.      P.23 In line with the HLPE report on this theme (2011), our analysis indicates that biofuels have played a predominant role in the increases in food prices and volatility since 2004. Two basic reasons can be identified. In the first place, with the rise of oil prices, it has been economically feasible for ethanol manufacturers to bid up the price of maize (and through it the price of other crops) from roughly $2.25 per bushel ($88.6 per metric ton) to levels 2.5 to 3 times higher for much of 2008 and since 2010 (prices ranging from $6-$8 per bushel, or roughly % per bushel, or roughly $235 to more than $300 per metric ton) for much of 2008, and since 2010. Secondly, the production and supply of grain, vegetable oil and sugar supplies since 2004 have not been growing as fast as the demand for them, which is due in large part to the rise in demand for biofuels.

According to data published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and contrary to what is stated in the report, global sugar production is higher than consumption. Since 2004 (year mentioned in the report), production has grown 0.78% per year, while demand grew by 0.53% (Graph 2). For the 2012/13 harvest, the USDA estimates a global surplus of 8.7 million metric tons of sugar. According to LMC International, production will outpace consumption by 9.6 million tons (Graph 3).

In addition, when analyzing sugar supply and demand it is necessary to consider sugar production/consumption cyclical behavior, as shown in Graph 3.



Source: USDA



Source: LMC International.

4.      P. 32, footnote 11  The 26.46 million metric ton increase in soybean imports in China between 2004 and 2012 would require 9.6 million hectares of U.S. soybean land at 2012 yields (26.46 million mt divided by 2.75 MT/ha U.S. 2012 soybean yield). During this period, total grain used for ethanol increased 95.6 million metric tons, which implies a net increase of 66.9 million mt after accounting for by-products at 30%. Vegetable oil for biodiesel increased by 13.483 million metric tons and raw sugar used for ethanol increased by 26.444 million metric tons. That can be roughly translated into 7.542 million hectares of U.S. maize land net of by products (66.9 million mt/8.879 mt/ha), 8.57 million hectares of U.S. soybean land based on the caloric value of vegetable oil in the soybeans (13.483 million mt soybean oil/0.2 crush ratio*.35 caloric ratio/2.75 mt/ha U.S. 2012 soybean yield); and 6.6 million hectares of Brazilian cropland for sugarcane (26.444 million mt of raw sugar eq. /.048809 raw sugar to sugar cane ratio in Brazil in 2012/81.64 mt/ha sugarcane yield in Brazil in 2012

The source of this data is not indicated in the report. The authors should include it. According to the Center for Sugarcane Technology (CTC), agricultural productivity in the 2012/13 harvest year is likely to reach about 74 tons of sugarcane per hectare. In the 2011/12 harvest year productivity reached 69 tonnes per hectare - the lowest level of the past 20 years – because of several factors: unfavorable weather conditions (including the occurrence of frost and flowering); incidence of new diseases such as “ferrugem laranja” (Sugarcane Orange Rust); increased levels of certain pest infestations; advanced age of sugarcane fields; the expansion of mechanized planting and harvesting in areas not systematized for these procedures; production growth in regions with lower yield potential.

In addition, there is no information on the amount of sugarcane cultivated worldwide that is exclusively directed to ethanol production. Therefore, it is impossible to consider the 26,440,000 metric tons mentioned in the report as reliable data. In Brazil, the amount of sugarcane directed to ethanol production grew by 99.10 million tons between harvest years 2004/05 and 2012/13, which is equivalent to the period mentioned in the paragraph in question. In turn, this volume would total 4.84 million metric tons if the conversion factor used in that study (0.048809) is adopted.





Source: CTC. Note: 2012* - preliminary data.

5.      P. 36 Yet, the U.S. exported more than 300 million gallons of ethanol to Brazil in 2011 (CRS 2011 p. 31). This apparently strange behavior reflects the premium price paid for “advanced ethanol” to meet U.S. mandates, which include sugarcane, and the limited capacity of Brazil to produce ethanol both for its own market and the U.S

Large imports of ethanol in 2011 were an exceptional situation, which cannot be taken as a parameter and is not expected to happen again in the future. Between the 2010/11 and 2011/12 harvests, the amount of sugarcane crushed dropped by 9.82% given the lowest productivity levels of the past 20 years. It should be noted that ethanol imports from the US in 2012 dropped considerably, to 144 million gallons, while exports rose to 541 million gallons.

The 2011 situation happened because of a poor harvest in Brazil, caused by economic and climate problems that impacted production. Export contracts, however, needed to be honored, which explains an important part of that trade. To conclude, however, it is paramount to point out the great benefits of a free market. The possibility of ethanol being traded freely between the two biggest producers allows for a reduction in market tensions. Between harvests, for example, when there is a tendency for prices to rise, the free market will act as a counter balance, avoiding price spikes and, therefore, benefiting consumers.



















           Source: SECEX.

6.      P. 41 Today, if 100% of world crop production were diverted to bioenergy, it would provide 13% of world primary energy

According to the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation, bioenergy in 2008 accounted for 10.2% of total primary energy supply (492 EJ). It is worth noting, however, that 60% of the bioenergy produced in 2008 was characterized as traditional biomass. This indicates a significant potential for increasing the share of modern biomass in primary energy supply.

 It is also important to point out that biofuels should be analyzed in light of the transportation energy needs, and not as the total of energy demand, as the author suggest. In this context, biofuels do have a significant potential to reduce the world´s gasoline dependency. Just to illustrate and put this potential into perspective, we present a hypothetical scenario with the substitution of 20% of total global gasoline consumption by sugarcane ethanol in 2020. Considering trends in the gasoline market, we assume an estimated world gasoline consumption of around 1.48 billion m3 in 2020. Considering ethanol´s lower energy content, a 20% substitution would represent 332 million m3 of ethanol. To produce that amount of ethanol with sugarcane, and assuming a 30% increase in the productivity by 2020 (from 7,000 to 9,000 liters per hectare) due to technological advances (improved varieties, some production of second generation ethanol from sugarcane leaves, etc), the world would need 37.47 million hectares. In other words, it means that with 2.41% of the area currently under cultivation in the world, we would be able to substitute 20% of total global gasoline needs by 2020. Obviously this is just a very simplistic scenario and any conclusion needs to be done with care. It does, however, indicate that biofuels can have a relevant contribution to our transportation needs: a very different deduction when compared with the messages presented on page 41, which are also based on a very simplistic scenario.

7.      P.42 Any effort, therefore, to produce meaningful quantities of bioenergy would result in large-scale competition with the use of land for other human needs or carbon storage.

The Brazilian experience with sugarcane ethanol indicates that this may not be true. For instance, using less than 0.5% of the Brazilian territory, sugarcane ethanol surpassed gasoline consumption in 2008 (consumption data from ANP, Brazil). In addition to that, it is estimated that around 40% of the world’s arable lands are severely degraded. Part of these areas could also be restored and used for bioenergy production.

8.      P. 52 Certifications schemes are a key complement and advance on regulation to the extent that they operate at the level of the firm and can incorporate specific features not contemplated in general regulations. On the other hand, there are many certification schemes not all of which are multi-stakeholder or include social criteria. This makes it possible for UNICA, the representative of the Brazilian ethanol producers to be a member of the RSB but to certify its products through another certification scheme Bonsucro.

It is important to clarify that UNICA does not certify any product. As an institutional representation, the organization is a member of some certification forums and roundtables, including the RSB and Bonsucro, with the aim of contributing to the development of robust and sound sustainability certification schemes that are applicable to the sugarcane industry in Brazil. UNICA’s member companies, however, are completely free to choose whether or not to certify their products and, in the later case, which standard to follow.

Finally, unlike what the report suggests, Bonsucro is also an international multistakeholder initiative. Its more than 60 members come from different sectors, including farmers, biofuel producers, consumers and NGOs. Social requirements have always been a key part of the Bonsucro standard. Criteria specifically relating to social issues can be found, for instance, in Principles 1, 2 and 5 of the standard. Please visit the Bonsucro website ( for additional information.

9.      P.73 Appendix I. Biofuels Policies by Country, Type, Mandates and Subsidies/Incentives

The percentages specified in Appendix I regarding ethanol blends in Brazil is incorrect. According to the Portaria nº 678 of August 31st 2011 by the Ministry of Agriculture, the current ethanol blend in gasoline is 20%. However, it is important to point out that the law (Lei nº 12.490, Sept 16 2011) specifies a minimum of 18% and maximum of 25%.

Additional data that is incorrect refers to the volume of ethanol demand in Brazil (2.7 million  m³ in 2011 mentioned in the report). According to ANP (National Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels Agency), consumption in 2011 amounted to 19.29 billion liters (8.39 billion of hydrous ethanol, plus 10.9 billion of anhydrous ethanol).

Regarding the alleged subsidy to the sugar-energy industry in Brazil mentioned in the document, we encourage the authors to cite the source of this data in order to understand and comment on the methodology adopted. There are different levels for the ICMS (a consumption related tax), depending on the state. These taxes, however, are never lower than the ones applied, for example, to fossil diesel. Therefore, we would suggest that detailed information about the calculations and methodologies should be transparently presented.

We remain at your disposition should you need any additional information on the Brazilian Sugarcane industry.

Best regards,

Elizabeth Farina
President and CEO
Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association


Bibliographic references list that we recommend the authors of the report take into consideration.

·         On biofuels, food prices and food security

CGEE and BNDES. “Sugar-based bioethanol: energy for sustainable development”. Rio de Janeiro, 2008.

Bioenergy and Food Security Criteria and Indicators (BEFSCI). Good Socio-Economic Practices in Modern Bioenergy Production. Minimizing Risks and Increasing Opportunities for Food Security. FAO 2011. Available at

DALE, B., et. al. Biofuels Done Right: Land Efficient Animal Feeds Enable Large Environmental and Energy Benefits. Environmental Science & Technology 2010, 44,8385–8389. VOL. 44, NO. 22.

FUNDAÇÃO GETÚLIO VARGAS (2008). Food Price Determining Factors: The Impact on Biofuels. November, 2008. Available at

NEVES, M. et al. Food and Fuel. The example of Brazil. Wageningen Academic Publishers. The Netherlands. (2011).

·         On social impacts

CGEE - Sustainability of sugarcane bioenergy - Updated edition. – Brasília, DF :  Center for Strategic Studies and Management (CGEE), 2012. 360 p: il. ; 24 cm. ISBN 978-85-60755-47-9

MACHADO, P.G. “Assessment of Socio-Economic Impacts of Ethanol Production from Sugarcane in Brazil: research activities and preliminary conclusions”. Presented at 3éme Conference Internationale Sur Les Biocarburants en Afrique. Ouagadougou 14-16 Novembre 2011

MARTINELLI, L.A., et al. Sugar and ethanol production as a rural development strategy in Brazil: Evidence from the state of São Paulo. Agr. Syst. (2011), doi:10.1016/j.agsy.2011.01.006

MORAES, M. A. F. D. . Social Inclusion of Rural Workers. In: Marisa Aparecida Bosmara Regitano d'Arce; Thais Maria ferreira de Souza Veira; Thiago Libório Romanelli. (Org.). Agroenergy and Sustainability. 1 ed. São Paulo: Edusp, 2009, v. 1, p. 171-198. 

MORAES, M. A. F. D. . Socio-economic Indicators and Determinants of the Income of Workers in Sugar Cane Plantations and in the Sugar and Ethanol Industries in the North, North-East and Centre-South Regions of Brazil. In: Edmund Amann; Werner Baer; Don Coes. (Org.). Energy, Bio Fuels And Development: Comparing Brazil And The United States. : Routledg. Taylor and Francis Group, 2010.

MORAES, M. A. F. D. .Number and quality of jobs in the sugar cane agribusiness. . In: Isaias de Carvalho Macedo. (Org.). Sugar cane´s energy. Twelve studies on Brazilian sugar cane agribusiness and its sustainability. São Paulo: Berlendis & Vertecchia: UNICA - União da Agroindústria Canavieira do Estado de São Paulo, 2005, v. , p. 207-213.

MORAES, M. A. F. D. et. al. Social Externalities of Fuels. In. Ethanol and bioelectricity: Sugarcane in the future of the energy matrix / [coordination and supervision Eduardo L. de Sousa and Isaias de Carvalho Macedo; English translation Brian Nicholson]. – São Paulo: Unica, 2011.

NEVES, M. F., CHADDAD, F. R. The Benefits of Sugarcane Chain Development in Africa. Industry Speaks. IFAMA. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review / Volume 15, Issue 1, 2012.

WALTER, A. “A Sustainability Analysis of the Brazilian Ethanol”. UNICAMP. Campinas, November 2008.

·         On environmental impacts and energy aspects

AL-RIFFAI, P., DIMARANAN B., LABORDE, D. Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). European Union and United States Biofuel Mandates: Impacts on World Markets. 2010.

International Energy Agency (IEA). Technology Roadmap. Biofuels for Transport. OECD / IEA (2011). Available at

IPCC, 2011: Summary for Policymakers. In: IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation [O. Edenhofer, R.  Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, K. Seyboth, P. Matschoss, S. Kadner, T. Zwickel, P. Eickemeier, G. Hansen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow (eds)], Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

MACEDO, I. C., MEIRA FILHO, L.G. Contribution of Ethanol to Climate Change. In. Ethanol and bioelectricity: Sugarcane in the future of the energy matrix / [coordination and supervision Eduardo L. de Sousa and Isaias de Carvalho Macedo ; English translation Brian Nicholson] . – São Paulo : Unica, 2011.

MACEDO, I., SEABRA, J. E. A., SILVA, J. E. A. R. Green house gases emissions in the production and use of ethanol from sugarcane in Brazil: The 2005/2006 averages and a prediction for 2020. Biomass and Bioenergy 32 (2008) 582-595.

NASSAR, A. ET AL. Biofuels and land-use changes: searching for the top model. February 9, 2011 doi: 10.1098 /​ rsfs.2010.0043Interface Focus rsfs20100043.

SEABRA, J. ET AL. Life cycle assessment of Brazilian sugarcane products: GHG emissions and energy use. Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining. 5:519–532 (2011).

SOUZA SP, SEABRA JEA. Environmental benefits of the integrated production of ethanol and biodiesel. Appl Energy (2012), 2012.09.016