Biofuels Industry strong arms Governments at UN Food Security conference

By the Civil Society Mechanism for international food security and nutrition

Civil society interjection during the CFS plenary Photo ©FAO/Alessia Pierdomenico

Civil society interjection during the CFS plenary
Photo ©FAO/Alessia Pierdomenico

ROME, Italy – Today Civil Society movements blamed Governments negotiating on biofuels at the Committee on World Food security for defending the interests of the biofuels industry rather than the interests of people pushed into hunger by biofuel policies. They refused to endorse the recommendations on biofuels as any references to Human Rights, links with food price spikes and land grabbing have been systematically refused.

Governments acknowledged that biofuels crops compete with food crops and influence food prices but did not have the courage to recommend any action to stop this. The domination of pro biofuel countries in talks has resulted in decisions heavily favorable for biofuels expansion. Governments who spoke expressing strong misgivings have largely been ignored.

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Beyond a ‘talk shop’ in Rome

By Nimisha Bastedo


Margaret Nakato, adding the voice of social movements to the panel

How can we make sure that the decisions that are made here actually have an impact?

This was the central question during the side event yesterday morning that was called “Towards the Innovative monitoring mechanism of the CFS”.

The special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter, talked about the risk of reducing the CFS into a “talk shop” if there aren’t clear, “rights-based and participatory” ways of monitoring the extent to which all the talk has translated into policies and practice on the ground. Read more…

Fuel before food: The U.S. position on biofuels

Ethanol production

Sugarcane production in Brazil

By Stevie DuFrense, Becca Haydu, and Cara Weber

The issue of biofuels and their impacts on world food security is a contested topic here at CFS 40 in Rome. The text is up for negotiation as civil society works to influence the voting member governments of the CFS. Students from the United States, Becca, Cara and Stevie, have been following U.S. biofuels policy and its impacts on world food security.

Monday afternoon’s roundtable discussion began with a presentation from the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) report and Harry de Gorter, agricultural trade expert from Cornell University. Their presentations highlighted the connection between biofuels and price volatility in food commodities, such as sugar cane and corn, as well as developmental potentials. de Gorter explained that for every one-cent increase in biofuels price, there is a four-cent increase in corn prices. This strong link began in October of 2006, and contributed to 79% of the food price spikes in the 2007-08 crisis, which left thousands of people hungry and food insecure.

Despite this direct link between biofuels and food price volatility, the United States and many other countries, including Canada, Brazil and the European Union, have mandates(1) on biofuels. Canada currently maintains a 5% domestic ethanol mandate on use while the U.S. is working towards a target of 136 billion liters of biofuels blended into transportation fuels by 2022. The U.S. is also the world’s largest producer of ethanol, with Brazil following at a close second. Combined, their production accounts for 87% of global ethanol production. The US government claims that biofuels policies are an effort improve sustainable “green” energies while moving away from fossil fuel dependence. This connection with the global market means that biofuels policy in the U.S. directly impacts food security around the world.

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Hard and Fast Facts – Part 2

by Khristian Méndez

The talks and negotiations going on at the FAO Headquarters in Room have changed rooms, have changed voices and have changed tones. After having a few days for Civil Society to try to come to consensus, the texts on the table are now being bracketed and picked apart by Member States, the Private Sector as well as other players. Before my peers carry on delivering a breakdown of the events unfolding before our eyes, I would like to add a bit more of background for those who read these words with fresh eyes, but no less eager energy. More after the jump…

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