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Publication | 29 November 2018

Biofuels and food security

In October 2011, the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) recommended a “review of biofuels policies – where applicable and if necessary – according to balanced science-based assessments of the opportunities and challenges that they may represent for food security so that biofuels can be produced where it is socially, economically and environmentally feasible to do so”. In line with this, the CFS requested 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”.

Analysing the relationships between biofuels and food security is especially challenging. It is at the intersection of some major global issues: energy, food, land use, and development. Biofuel production and the policies used to support its development can relate both positively and negatively with each of the four dimensions of food security – availability, access, utilization (nutrition) and stability. An appreciation of the relationships and causal impact and feedback links between biofuels and food security requires assessments at both global and local levels. It must also be situated within a dynamic perspective, given the fast changing developments, the complex and not necessarily instantaneous relationship between the drivers of biofuels’ rise and the (positive and negative) impacts on food security, and the need for projections of the future. Such an approach requires making assumptions on various parameters, ranging from the role of bioenergy, to the evolution of techniques, and to potential impacts at global and local levels