Biofuel development should not compromise food security, says CFS

Committee on World Food Security also stresses policy and investment support for smallholder farmers and producers

11 October 2013, Rome - Following a week of intense discussions, the Committee on World Food Security stressed the link between biofuels and food security, saying that the "progressive realization of the right to adequate food for all" should be a priority concern in biofuel development.

The world's most important intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder platform for food security and nutrition said biofuel development "should not compromise food security, and should especially consider women and smallholders."

The 7-11 October meeting drew nearly 750 people, including over 130 government delegations, 100 civil society and 50  private sector organizations. Following the talks, the CFS also agreed on the importance of integrating smallholder agriculture into national policies, strategies, and research aimed at boosting investment and sustainable development.

Family farmers, fishers and others whose livelihoods depend on smallholder agriculture in developing countries account for most of the 840 million chronically hungry people in the world, according to the recent UN hunger report, the State of Food Insecurity in the World.

Opportunities and risks

On the subject of biofuels and food security, informed by a report from the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on Food Security and Nutrition, the CFS noted that biofuel development encompassed "both opportunities and risks in economic, social and environmental aspects," depending on the context and practices. "In some cases, current biofuel production creates competition between biofuel crops and food crops," it added.

The CFS encouraged FAO and other stakeholders to look at ways to help countries strengthen their capacities to assess their situation with regards to biofuels, taking into account food security concerns at global, regional and national levels, and legitimate land tenure rights.

"Governments and other appropriate stakeholders are encouraged to review biofuels policies - where applicable and if necessary - according to balanced science-based assessments of the opportunities and risks they may present for food security," the Committee said.

It called on biofuel research and development partners to improve the efficiency of biofuels regarding both resources and processes, and to devise solutions adapted to the needs of all stakeholders, including those in least-developed countries, as well as women and smallholders who are most in need of access to modern energy services.

The CFS' recommendation called on research and development partners to adapt biofuel production and processing to modulate the supply chain between food, feed and energy, depending on conditions.

The CFS specified that guidance on the issue is included in existing international agreements and instruments including: the CFS Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition (GSF); the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in The Context of National Food Security (VGGT); the Voluntary Guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security; the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) Sustainability Indicators for Bioenergy and FAO Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Approach.

Investment in smallholders

On the issue of investment in smallholder agriculture, also informed by an HLPE report, the CFS adopted a policy recommendation calling on governments, together with smallholder organizations, civil society, the private sector, research institutions and international development partners, to work together to "build a country-owned vision" designed to boost investments in smallholder agriculture.

The CFS recommended countries consider how agricultural, urban and rural sector policies, strategies and budgets could best enable smallholder access to productive assets, local, national and regional markets, appropriate training, research, technology and farm support services - especially for women.

The importance of smallholder agriculture will be highlighted in 2014 during the International Year of Family Farming.

The CFS also tackled a wide range of other issues designed to support efforts to eradicate chronic hunger and extreme poverty, including responsible agricultural investments and food security in protracted crisis situations. These discussions were slated to continue during regional consultations in the months to come.

At the end of the week, Gerda Verburg of the Netherlands was elected as the CFS Chair for a two-year term. Verburg suceeds Yaya Olaniran of Nigeria.

Photo: ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto
The Committee on World Food Security promotes better policy convergence for food security.