Biofuels don't harm food production, trade group insists

A biofuels industry group has struck back at a recent WRI report which questioned the sustainability of bioenergy, claiming it presented 'false data' on the environmental impacts of the technology.

The GRFA says global ethanol production utilizes only 2% of grain supplies, which is 'not enough to compete with food production or significantly alter food prices.

The GRFA says global ethanol production utilizes only 2% of grain supplies, which is 'not enough to compete with food production or significantly alter food prices.

The WRI report stated that dedicating crops to generating bioenergy is 'too inefficient' to solve energy crises and makes it harder to sustainably feed the planet. The organisation ultimately suggested that solar PV was a preferable option for renewable energy generation.

But the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) disputes these claims. The group, which represents more than 60% of the world's renewable fuels production, says the WRI makes "several hypothetical predictions about biofuels and fails to substantiate its claim that bioenergy is competing for food crops and land".

In a statement, the GRFA points to several major studies which look at the issue using "actual historical data not hypothetical projections". These studies reportedly show that increased use of crops for biofuels will not cause additional land use and therefore not stress food production.

Food and fuel

The trade body also said that global ethanol production utilizes only 2% of grain supplies, which is "not enough to compete with food production or significantly alter food prices". Meanwhile biofuel use saved around 106m tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2014.

"When biofuels are produced so too are food co-products such as animal feed which benefit food security, as recognised by the UN, a benefit which solar panels do not have," the GRFA said.

The Alliance also suggested that addressing food waste – up to 50% of global food production is wasted – is a better way to tackle food shortages than cutting biofuel production.

The debate comes just a couple of weeks after the director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization threw his weight behind biofuels. Speaking at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, Graziano da Silva said: "It is important not to forget that biofuels emerged with strength as an alternative energy source because of the need to mitigate fossil fuel production and greenhouse gases - and that need has not changed. 

"We need to move from the food versus fuel debate to a food and fuel debate...biofuels should not be simply seen as a threat or as a magical solution"

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Brad Allen


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