Biofuels and food security: biting off more than we can chew?

Joy S. Clancy, Sergio Luis Rivero Acha, Wei Chen

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This paper examines the demonization of biofuels in relation to food security and assess whether or not the negativity towards biofuels is justified. We first examine the concept of food security which has been a concern long before the emergence of biofuels. We show that creating food security is more than producing a ‘sufficient’ volume of food instead that it depends on complex, context dependent, social, economic, political and ecological factors in which growing biofuels. Indeed biofuels is only one of the influencing factors. We would suggest that too much focus on growing biofuels as the identified problem detracts from the underlying causes of food insecurity and hunger. We do recognise that there are a number of real concerns about biofuels not only related to food security, for example, conditions of employment and displacement of rural people which can occur when biofuels crops are grown on large plantations. However, we would stress that this is nothing specifically linked to biofuels but more general issues related to economic develop. Biofuels can be a threat to food security through the LUCs when ‘waste land’ is used by outsiders for biofuel crops. Land that is not currently producing commercial crops is a source of food for the rural poor, particularly the landless. Growing biofuels by smallholders also provides income generating opportunities, so biofuels become part of the solution to food security provided the terms of incorporation into biofuel value chains are favourable particularly for women who are more likely to spend any income on food. In order to avoid food-biofuel conflicts the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as part of the Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) project has developed an assessment methodology when evaluating the potential for bioenergy development. The paper will present initial results from applying the Rapid Appraisal Tool in the context of Bolivia and Taiwan.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWREC 2013: 13th World Renewable Energy Congress, London, 4-8 August 2014
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherWorld Renewable Energy Network
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2014
Event13th World Renewable Energy Congress, WREC 2014 - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Aug 20148 Aug 2014
Conference number: 13


Conference13th World Renewable Energy Congress, WREC 2014
Abbreviated titleWREC
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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