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Governments Should Focus 'Scant Resources' On Food Security Before Biofuels

“[T]he latest calculations show that U.S. ethanol policies have increased the food bills of poor food-importing countries by more than $9 billion (£5.6 billion) since 2006,” Olivier De Schutter, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog. He asks, “But where to next? Should we disavow biofuels altogether?” He writes, “The new starting point should be to put food security first,” noting, “Globally, 25 percent of land is already degraded, and the remaining productive areas are subject to ever-greater competition from industrial and urban uses.”

“Governments should therefore manage scant resources in a way that puts food production first — both domestically and where imported fuels are concerned,” De Schutter writes and continues, “Indeed, if biofuels are to have a future, they must think small-scale and local,” but “[m]odels of this type, where biofuel production strengthens local food producers and food systems, rather than uprooting them, are few and far between.” He states, “A new logic must be applied domestically and for imported fuel that actively seeks out win-wins for smallholders and local energy uses, while avoiding any radical reshaping of local agricultural structures.” He adds, “This means robust case-by-case impact assessments that are sensitive to food security,” concluding, “Only by doing so will they ensure that a ‘food security first’ logic is hardwired into the crucial decisions over how a region should manage its resources” (10/17).