GENERAL COMMENTS FROM THE UNITED STATES
The “Biofuels and Food Security” Report (“the Report”) addresses an important topic: the impact of transportation biofuels production and use on food security. The Report provides useful insights into the state of global agricultural markets and land use practices, as well as environmental and social implications. We wish to provide the HLPE with the following input.
The Report inadequately considers the work of the FAO Bioenergy and Food Security Project and the Global Bioenergy Partnership on bioenergy and food security. The CFS mandated: “the HLPE to conduct a science-based comparative literature analysis, taking into consideration the work produced by the FAO and Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP), of the positive and negative effects of biofuels on food security to be presented to the CFS.” However, the report only briefly cites work of the FAO Bioenergy and Food Security team. The work of GBEP is mentioned in a trivial way and is inaccurately listed under the section on certification schemes. The HLPE must restructure and rewrite this document in a manner that adequately takes into account the existing work of the FAO and GBEP on biofuels and food security.
The quality and impact of the Report will significantly benefit from considering previously published research, which assesses: the economic, social and environmental feasibility of biofuels; the impacts global and national biofuels policies; and the full range of impact(s) of biofuels production on food and nutrition security. In addition, more in-depth analyses of the industry dynamics and the forces leading to changes in local and global commodity markets would help in assessing the potential impact of biofuels on food security. Currently, the Report is written as a policy discussion piece, premised on the bias that nationally determined biofuels mandates - such as those in Brazil, the U.S. and EU - are overwhelmingly responsible for driving up the prices of food and thereby decreasing food security for the global poor. The report draws on a biased and unrepresentative sample of academic and (non-peer-reviewed) NGO publications to convince the reader of this outcome. The authors would be better served by summarizing the macro- and micro-economic literature, as opposed to using simplistic aggregate calculations of the possible impact of bioenergy on global energy supplies and on food security.
Future drafts of this paper should reflect the conclusions of FAO BEFS and GBEP, specifically that: bioenergy can improve energy access and food security for smallholder farmers in developing countries, when implemented in a rational and sustainable manner. In section 4.2.4 the paper mentions a balanced approach to bioenergy, citing “[a] recent UNU-IAS study on Biofuels in Africa by Gasparatos et al (2010) [that] develops a useful typology of biofuels at the level of individual production systems, demonstrating the importance of going beyond aggregate considerations.” The paper should be restructured to take into account the different roles that bioenergy and biofuels play in developed and developing countries, as well as the importance of looking seriously at distinct contexts when creating and implementing policies on the production and uses of bioenergy.
KEY PROBLEMS TO ADDRESS
1) It is insufficient for the HLPE to merely consider globally aggregated impacts of transportation biofuel production and use on food security. The HLPE must disaggregate the impacts of industrial transportation biofuels production from bioenergy for sustainable development. We recommend more rigorous calculations of the impact of biofuels that provide a thorough treatment and clearer evidence from available data, taking into account regional and national circumstances. Throughout the report, we also recommend using consistent, clear, and standardized definitions of food and nutrition security and bioenergy.
2) The HLPE must provide a more nuanced and thorough account of the causes of food and nutrition insecurity in developing countries, which draws upon a broader selection of the literature. Examples of causes include: post-harvest losses, due to a lack of energy access; insufficient infrastructure to transport domestically produced commodities and foods; national policies that inhibit development of the agricultural sector; and other limits on production, including barriers to trade. The HLPE should reference the work of FAO BEFS and the recent World Bank Report entitled “Africa Can Help Feed Africa: Removing barriers to regional trade in food staples”. (See below for full bibliographic details.)
CONSOLIDATED REFERENCES TO INCLUDE
For the HLPE to be responsive to its mandate, the report should discuss and cite this work:
Together, these publications make the following essential points when considering the relationship between bioenergy and food security. Specifically:
1) The positive or negative impacts of bioenergy on food security raise complex issues, which need to be considered in country-specific, regional, and international contexts.
2) The production and uses of bioenergy have benefits and challenges. Policy tools - such as the BEFS Analytical Framework and the GBEP indicators - can assist countries in optimizing the benefits and minimizing the challenges, including challenges to food security.
3) Food insecurity is driven in large part by a lack of energy access. Bioenergy production and use can improve food security by providing energy for food production, food storage (drying and cold storage), and food transportation.
Related links and resources:
Biofuels and Food Security - A consultation by the HLPE to set the track of its study
Committee on World Food Security (CFS)
High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE)
The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) Key Elements
The FSN Forum is supported by the project Coherent food security responses: incorporating right to food into global and regional food security initiatives.