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