Food and Agriculture Organization

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Information about biofuels and bioenergy and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Contents

Activities

Events

2008

News

2011

  • Report Links Biofuels With Food Prices, 4 August 2011 by The Wall Street Journal: "For years, commentators have blamed Asia’s rapidly-expanding middle class for pushing up the cost of food and creating markets so volatile prices have spiked to record levels two times in four years."
    • "But according to new research for the United Nations’ food body, the increasing diversion of grain and oilseeds to create fuel—particularly in the U.S. and Europe, which spend an estimates $8 billion a year supporting their biofuel industries—has had a far greater effect."
    • "In contrast to mainstream belief, it argues that without biofuels, the rate of feed consumption in everywhere but the Soviet Union (whose livestock industry is still recovering from a collapse under Communism) is actually slowing—despite the jump in demand for meat in Asia."
    • "Because of this, the report finds that 'limiting the use of food to produce biofuel is the first objective to be pursued to curb demand.' Those that are used should be produced 'where it is economically, environmentally and socially feasible to do so, and traded more freely,' it adds."[1]
  • The Extraordinary Collapse of Jatropha as a Global Biofuel, 2 August 2011 by Environmental Science & Technology: "In a massive planting program of unprecedented scale millions of marginal farmers and landless people were encouraged to plant Jatropha across India through attractive schemes....Similar measures were undertaken across other developing countries involving millions of small farmers in the hope that it would not only provide renewable energy but also enhance their incomes....By 2008, Jatropha had already been planted over an estimated 900000 ha globally of which an overwhelming 85% was in Asia, 13% in Africa and the rest in Latin America, and by 2015 Jatropha is expected to be planted on 12.8 million ha worldwide."
    • "But the results are anything but encouraging. In India the provisions of mandatory blending could not be enforced as seed production fell far short of the expectation and a recent study has reported discontinuance by 85% of the Jatropha farmers....In Tanzania the results are very unsatisfactory and a research study found the net present value of a five-year investment in Jatropha plantation was negative with a loss of US$ 65 per ha on lands with yields of 2 tons/ha of seeds...."
    • "...A case study of Jatropha plantations raised in 1993–1994 in the Indian province of Andhra Pradesh had reported actual yields that were far below expectations and the species was found to be prone to termite attacks, water logging, vulnerable to drought in the planting year and delayed yields."
    • "...As an immediate step an international body like the FAO may have to intervene to stop further extension of Jatropha in new areas without adequate research inputs. Greater investments in dissemination of scientific data will help in ensuring due diligence does not cause undue delays in decision making."[2]
  • FAO's Tool Weighs Pros and Cons of Biofuels, 7 June 2011 by AllAfrica.com: "Calculating the costs and benefits of investing in biofuels may become easier for policymakers with a guide launched by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)."
    • "The Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Analytical Framework, released last month (17 May), was developed over the past three years and tested in Peru, Tanzania and Thailand."
    • "Heiner Thofern, head of the BEFS project, said that the goal is to help policymakers make informed decisions on whether development of bioenergy is a viable option for their countries and, if so, identify policies that will maximise benefits for the economy and minimise risks to food security."
    • Chris Buddenhagen, council coordinator of the Hawaii Invasive Species Council who developed a tool for assessing the risk of invasion by biofuel species, also welcomed the method, but warned that it seems hard to use and difficult to apply quickly to make the best policy decisions."
    • "He also said the tool neglects some important issues, such as biodiversity and the invasiveness of biofuel species."[3]
  • Analysis: Land banks buffer Indonesian palm oil from forest ban, 25 May 2011 by Reuters: "Palm oil firms in Indonesia can overcome a two-year ban on forest clearing by tapping into land reserves, but they face bigger problems attracting the labor needed to work the soil and boost yields."
    • "The ban, effective from Friday, limits access to sensitive peat and forest regions and removes much of the uncertainty that had hung over the palm industry as Jakarta finalized the details."
    • "Plantation firms can now turn their attention to how best to bring massive land banks into rotation profitably and how to boost yields from existing acreage, industry experts said."
    • "To compete with soyoil suppliers for the top vegetable oil markets in India and China, the world's top palm oil producer needs to produce more palm oil per hectare."
    • "The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization data show Indonesian average, annual yields stand at 18 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches per hectare, lower than Malaysia's 20 tonnes in 2009 and keeping productivity in the region at 76 percent of estimated potential."[4]
  • World at risk of another food crisis: FAO, 14 March 2011 by Reuters: "A jump in oil prices and the fast recent drawdown in global stocks of cereals could herald a supply crisis, FAO Director General Jacques Diouf told Reuters in an interview during a visit to the United Arab Emirates."
    • "'The high prices raise concern and we've been quickly drawing down stocks,' he said. 'For years we have warned that what is needed is more productivity and investment in agriculture.'"
    • "February's UN Food Price Index rose for the eighth consecutive month, to the highest levels since at least 1990. Every commodity group except sugar rose last month."
    • "The FAO has asked developed countries to re-examine their biofuels strategies -- which include large subsidies -- since these have diverted 120 million tonnes of cereals away from human consumption to convert them to fuels."
    • "Avoiding another food crisis hinges on crop yields in the next harvest season, as well as how economic growth impacts demand, Diouf said. But he also said rising food prices and oil prices could have a detrimental effect on growth."[5]

2010

  • New Wikileaks show biofuel food impacts were underestimated, 14 December 2010 by Kenneth Richter of Friends of the Earth UK: "I found out today that biofuels and GM crops now have their very own Wikileak."
    • "The secret cables reveal some yet more evidence about US attempts to push GM crops onto Africa. The cables also contain notes from an international meeting called by Gordon Brown on biofuels and the food crises in 2008."
    • "In that meeting Joachim Von Braun, Director General of the [International] Food Policy Institute Research (IFPRI) suggested a moratorium on maize for biofuels. Their modelling showed it would immediately slash maize prices by 20 per cent and wheat prices by 10 per cent, with further reductions because it would discourage speculation."
    • "But this idea was dismissed by other participants. Cargill's Ruth Rawling predicted that wheat prices would come down quite quickly without the moratorium. The Overseas Development Institute estimated that prices would fall back from their 2008 peak to roughly what they had been in the early 1990s."
    • "How wrong they were."
    • "Wheat has now risen in price by nearly two-thirds in the past six months. Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Unilever's chief supply chain officer acknowledges: 'The world is losing arable land at a rate of about 40,000 square miles a year. That is land being used for biofuel production, while climate change is eroding away topsoil.'"
    • "As a result the FAO now predicts another major global food crisis for 2011."[8]
  • World 'dangerously close' to new food crisis, United Nations says, 17 November 2010 by the Washington Post: "The bill for global food imports will top $1 trillion this year for the second time, putting the world 'dangerously close' to a new food crisis, according to the United Nations."
    • "The warning by the world body's Food and Agriculture Organization adds to fears about rising inflation in emerging countries from China to India."
    • The FAO's Food Outlook "report said it was crucial that farm production - particularly of corn and wheat - 'expand substantially' in 2011-12 to meet expected demand and rebuild world reserves."
    • "But the FAO also said the production response may be limited, because rising food prices have made other crops, including sugar, soybeans and cotton, attractive to grow."[10]
  • Lack of science means jatropha biofuel 'could fail poor', 9 August 2010 by Papiya Bhattacharyya: "Mass planting of jatropha as a biofuel crop could benefit poor areas as well as combating global warming, but only if a number of scientific and production issues are properly addressed, a review has warned."
    • "Growing jatropha for biofuel on degraded land unsuitable for food and cash crops could help improve the earnings of small farmers and counter poverty, reports the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the review published last month."
    • "But Balakrishna Gowda, biofuel project coordinator in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, where jatropha is grown, and professor at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, said that it would be unrealistic to expect jatropha to reverse poverty 'overnight' in developing countries. 'The plant requires water and nutrition like any other plant [even if it grows on degraded land],' he told SciDev.Net. 'And it takes at least five to seven years for the plants to mature and grow their first fruit. We can rule out expectations of a great 'overnight' yield.'"[11]
  • Surging costs hit food security in poorer nations, 6 June 2010 by Associated Press: "With food costing up to 70 percent of family income in the poorest countries, rising prices are squeezing household budgets and threatening to worsen malnutrition....Compounding the problem in many countries: prices hardly fell from their peaks in 2008, when global food prices jumped in part due to a smaller U.S. wheat harvest and demand for crops to use in biofuels."
    • "The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's food price index — which includes grains, meat, dairy and other items in 90 countries — was up 22 percent in March from a year earlier though still below 2008 levels."[13]
  • UN 'exaggerated' meat impact on climate change, 25 March 2010 by Farmer's Guardian: "A leading scientist has accused the UN of exaggerating the impact of meat and dairy production on climate change."
    • "A 2006 UN report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation claimed meat production was responsible for 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions....The report, titled 'Livestock's Long Shadow', added agriculture had a greater impact on global warming than transport."
    • "But Professor Frank Mitloehner, an air quality specialist from the University of California at Davis (UCD), said agriculturefs impact had been exaggerated....He said the UN figures totted up emissions from farm to table ? including the impact of growing the feed, from livestock and from processing....However, transport emissions only considered emissions from fossil fuels burned while driving."
    • "He said leading authorities in the US agreed raising cattle and pigs for food accounted for about 3 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation created an estimated 26 percent."[14]

2009

2008

  • World needs to rethink biofuels - U.N. food agency, 7 October 2008 by Reuters: "The Western world needs to rethink its rush to biofuels, which has done more harm pushing up food prices than it has good by reducing greenhouse gases, a United Nations report said on Tuesday."
    • "The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said policies encouraging biofuel production and use in Europe and the United States was likely to maintain pressure on food prices but have little impact on weaning car users away from oil."
    • "'The report finds that while biofuels will offset only a modest share of fossil energy use over the next decade they will have much bigger impacts on agriculture and food security,' it said in its annual State of Food and Agriculture report."
    • "Biofuels' rise could provide an opportunity for farmers in developing countries to develop the new cash crops, the report said, but that would only happen if subsidy regimes were changed to favour poorer countries rather than richer ones."[17]
  • FAO unveils new bioenergy assessment tool - Weighs impact on food security, 8 February 2008, FAO press release: "A decision-support tool developed by FAO will help ensure that countries can enter the rapidly growing field of bioenergy industry to produce benefits for the poor without jeopardizing their food security....The tool, an “analytical framework” designed by a team of economists...was unveiled at a two-day experts’ meeting of FAO’s Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) project."
    • "A prerequisite for running the framework is the establishment of a bioenergy development scenario....The analytical framework then makes it possible, through five steps, to assess: technical biomass potential; biomass production costs; the economic bioenergy potential; macro-economic consequences; national and household-level impact and consequences on food security."
    • "The framework will be field-tested in three countries – Peru, Thailand and Tanzania – before the analytical framework methodology is made available to the international community at large."

Reports



United Nations edit
FAO (GBEP) | UNDP | UNEP
International organizations and initiatives edit
Multilateral agreements: Kyoto Protocol: Clean Development Mechanism

International initiatives: Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) | International Biofuels Forum
Bilateral agreements: Brazil-Indonesia Consultative Committee on Biofuels | US-Brazil Ethanol Partnership
Organizations: Global: Global Environmental Facility | United Nations (FAO, UNDP, UNEP) |
OECD: IEA / IEA Bioenergy (Task 40)
Regional: Latin America: Inter-American Development Bank | International Ethanol Commission
Asia: Asian Development Bank | Core Agriculture Support Program (CASP)


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