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Global Food Security Report Argues Against Renewables

04 June 2013

UK - MPs on the International Development Committee are calling for concerted action to curb food wastage in the UK as part of wider efforts to improve global food security.

Launching a report on Global Food Security as world leaders assemble in London to attend an international nutrition summit hosted by the UK government, Sir Malcolm Bruce, chair of the International Development Committee warned: "There is no room for complacency about food security over the coming decades if UK consumers are to enjoy stable supplies and reasonable food prices.

"UK aid to help smallholders increase food production in the developing world is of direct benefit to UK consumers as rising world food prices will reduce living standards of hard-pressed UK consumers.
We have seen two notable ‘shocks’ or ‘spikes’ in global food prices over recent years, with price peaks in June 2008 and February 2011.

rapeseed"These crises - driven by rising demand for food and by the impact of biofuels produced through agriculture - hurt many parts of the UK food industry and strongly undermined the global fight against hunger.

"A number of tangible measures set out in our report could, if implemented, have a significant impact on global food security and directly benefit UK consumers."

With respect to biofuels, MPs acknowledge that agriculturally-produced biofuels are having a major detrimental impact on global food security by driving higher and more volatile food prices.

They confirm that EU targets requiring 10 per cent of transport energy to be drawn from renewable sources by 2020 are likely to cause dramatic food price increases.

Responding to this the Committee calls on the UK government to revise its domestic Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) to specifically exclude agriculturally-produced biofuels and calls on the UK ministers to push for similar reform of the EU target.

Commenting on this Sir Malcolm Bruce added, "Biofuel crops not only displace food crops but are in some cases providing energy sources that are potentially more damaging to the environment than fossil fuels. 

"So while we recognise that refining the RFTO will make it harder for the UK to meet current EU obligations, the relevant target does not kick in until 2020 so there is nothing to stop the UK from revising the RTFO now to exclude agriculturally-produced biofuels."

Responding to the report, Renewable Energy Association Chief Executive Gaynor Hartnell said: “The Committee did not invite any witnesses from the industry, and therefore did not hear about the benefits biofuels can bring in enhancing food security and reducing carbon emissions.

“Demand for biofuels can help improve agricultural productivity, and biofuel manufacture produces high-protein, environmentally-sound animal feeds. Strict sustainability criteria ensure only biofuels with high carbon savings count towards renewable energy targets.

“Removing support for crop-based biofuels wholesale would mean the destruction of thousands of jobs, see millions of pounds of investment squandered and increase the cost of meeting renewable energy targets. It would also send icy chills down the spines of any prospective future investors in advanced biofuels made from wastes.”

REA Head of Renewable Transport Clare Wenner added: “Food or fuel is a false dichotomy. Strong regulation ensures that biofuels are done well and are part of the solution, not part of the problem, providing both food and fuel and making real world cuts in carbon emissions today.

“To ensure that sustainable biofuels reach their full potential, the NGO community must stop seeing the biofuels industry as the enemy that needs to be wiped out. These groups must recognise that the people driving the biofuels industry forward share their convictions about wanting to make the world a better place, and work with us to develop a constructive, solution-based dialogue on decarbonising the transport sector.”

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

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