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

Prof. Gerhard Flachowsky Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, Germany
14.01.2013
Gerhard

Dear FSN-moderator,

Congratulation to your interesting and very informative V0 Draft on “Biofuels and Food Security”.

The authors summarized in a short time up to date information, which should be presented to policy and an interested public audience.

But nevertheless, I allow me some comments to this valuable document:

- Co-poducts of biofuel production (they are called by-products in your paper; why? This are valuable products/animal feeds which are available after taking out starch and/or fat from cereals, oilseeds etc.) are underestimated/neglected in your paper. Their importance for your calculations is mentioned on p. 28 for the first time!

I would like to go more in detail: Grains/cereals contain between 65 and 80% carbohydrates (mainly starch) in the dry matter. If we consider a complete fermentation of carbohydrates into alcohol; about 20-35% are residue (mainly consisting of protein, fat, fibre and ash) and are available as valuable feed for animals. The fat content of oilseeds varied between about 20 (soybeans) and 50% of DM (canola, rapeseed; also jatropha); that means, the amount of co-products varies between 50 and 80% of the rough material used for biodiesel production.

Recently (2012) the FAO published an excellent Review-book “Biofuel co-products as livestock feed – Opportunities and Challenges. Edited by H.P.S. Makkar, Rome; 533 pp.) In this book, you may find many information about co-products, their nutritive value and significance in animal nutrition. You will also find some information about biology and botanical origin of some plants, also with potential for the second generation for biofuel (e.g. algae, p. 423-446). It seems to me that some information in your draft concerning jatropha (e.g. p. 20; origin of jatropha etc; see p. 351-378 of FAO 2012) need corrections or improvements.

Furthermore co-products should be also considered in your financial calculation (e.g. see p. 23 ff.), in your land use aspects (p. 38 ff.) and also in your calculation of energy balance (p. 16-18).

- The interesting and important calculations to bioenergy (p. 41 ff.) should be demonstrated/deduced more in detail. It is difficult to follow/believe in all the figures. A detailed information/explanation under consideration of the scientific origin (show and mention references) for all the data in an appendix may be helpful. Furthermore, the replacement potential of co-products for other feeds for animal nutrition should be also considered in such calculations.

- I miss some consequences of expected climate changes on land and water use as recently described and discussed in many books and papers (e.g. Reynolds et al.2010; Whitford et al. 2010).

Furthermore consequences of all the future developments discussed in the Draft for plant breeders are also missing. Plant breeding (and cultivation) is the starting point of the food chain (and also the fuel chain). Therefore this aspect should be also mentioned and discussed in your policy recommendations (p. 1-3).

- Your Draft Policy Recommendations are informative, but relatively long, descriptive and conservative for my understanding. I think that we need some new ways of thinking. In addition or instead of long recommendations I would prefer some (short) conclusions (for policymakers) to show important challenges for future research such as:

  • Promotion of public research in the field of plant breeding under consideration of limited resources (e.g. such as water, arable land, fuel etc.) and better adaptation of plants to greater extremes in climate conditions and higher temperatures.
  • Research to develop methods of biofuel production from non food products such as lingo-cellulose and wastes.
  • Development of new strategies for mobility without or with low amounts of fossil fuel and biofuel (individual mobility with electricity, replacement of individual mobility by other systems etc.)
  • Calculation of emissions (Carbon Footprints) for various systems under consideration of all inputs and outputs.

Best regards

Gerhard Flachowsky

Prof. Dr. G. Flachowsky
Institute of Animal Nutrition
Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute (FLI)
Federal Research Institute for Animal Health
Bundesallee 50
38116 Braunschweig
Germany