Bioenergy market can improve food security – report

Despite worries about competition for land over food and fuel production leading to food security fears, a DOE report says bioenergy and food security can be mutually supportive.

Investment in bioenergy could improve food security, but only if it is carefully planned, a report commissioned by the US Department of Energy has found.

The report says the bioethanol industry in Brazil is an example of how bioenergy has enhanced resource management and food security. Production has encouraged economic developments in regions with abundant labour and production capacity, but limited access to markets.

The report also pushes back on perceptions that bioenergy crops threaten food security by competing for fertile land. Price volatility, poor governance, limited infrastructure and poverty, rather than land scarcity, are the primary drivers of food security issues, it argues.

Instead, localised integrated bioenergy and food production strategies could improve commodity price stability. By providing an alternative market for excess production in bumper years, growers will be incentivised to plant enough to provide a supply cushion in case of sudden shortages.

“The debate needs to transition from irreconcilable generalisations about whether biofuels are ‘good or bad’ for food security, to constructive understandings of where and how biofuels can help achieve sustainable development goals including the eradication of hunger,” the paper reads.