Posted: June 22, 2011
Food is the focus of the G-20 Summit of Agricultural Ministers this week in Paris and some groups are warning that the end of the world may be near unless biofuels policies are changed. “The world is one bad harvest from a recurrence of the 2008 food crisis,” says one activist group. “Biofuels are not the answer to the climate and energy crises and our increasing addiction to them is robbing people of basic food security. The world cannot let some starve so that others can drive.”
The anti-biofuels agenda for the G-20 was set earlier this month with a report from the World Trade Organization, World Bank and several other international organizations that largely blames biofuels production for volatile world food prices. “If oil prices are high and a crop’s value in the energy market exceeds that in the food market, crops will be diverted to the production of biofuels which will increase the price of food,” the report states, making one of its ten recommendations to the G20 ministers being that “G20 governments remove provisions of current national policies that subsidize (or mandate) biofuels production or consumption.”
The Renewable Fuels Association calls the international report incomplete and unbalanced. “Most glaringly, this report fails to recommend concrete steps that could be taken by G20 countries to combat the impact of higher energy costs on food price volatility,” said RFA Vice President for Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper. “Remarkably, the report fails to properly address the impact of prices for oil and other energy sources on food price volatility.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he intends to defend biofuels at the summit, stressing their importance to the economy and the environment. “America is working on developing new feedstocks that don’t pit food versus fuel but that create new rural economic opportunities and allow us to continue to expand on our efforts to build a much more renewable energy source,” said Vilsack, who is attending the Paris Air Show prior to the G20 meeting to discuss biofuels for aircraft that can be made from dedicated energy crops.
In addition to eliminating biofuels production, groups like Oxfam are calling on the G20 to support the creation of national and regional food reserves in developing countries, which they claim would help avoid food price surges. Vilsack says the U.S. is concerned about how those reserves would be managed in order to prevent manipulation and he is hoping that the countries choose to focus more on increasing agricultural productivity through “research, development and innovation,” including the use of more biotechnology.
Which makes more sense than having countries abandon efforts to create more renewable fuels and become less dependent on oil, or requiring stockpiles of grain to keep prices low while people continue to go hungry.