G20 ag ministers will stand behind biofuels despite report

By Holly Jessen | June 23, 2011

G20 Agriculture ministers announced June 23 at a G20 meeting in Paris that the group would remain supportive of biofuels policies. Just days before the meeting ethanol supporters had urged the group not to turn on biofuels, despite a report that had recommended G20 countries remove support for biofuels subsidies or mandates.

The group agreed on an Action Plan on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture that recognizes the role of biofuels in reducing greenhouse gases, energy security and rural development, said Secretary General of ePURE Rob Vierhout. In addition, ag ministers said that there was not enough evidence that bioduels were linked to food price volatility. “This is a victory of common sense and facts over the misinformation and hysteria promoted by some anti-biofuels critics,” Vierhout said. “Biofuels are a convenient bogeyman in the debate on food. We welcome that the G20 was not prepared to opt for the easy option and recognized the wealth of evidence that show food prices are driven primarily by energy prices and financial speculation in food commodities markets.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the groups would work to support innovation in developing non-food feedstocks and next-generation renewable fuels. “[This] will continue to help offset instability in the energy market, which accounts for the bulk of food and commodity price fluctuations in the past decade,” he said.

Overall, Vilsack called G20 ag minister’s plan of action a “historic union of resolve” to combat hunger and food price volatility. In addition to discussing biofuels, the group committed to launch an International Research Initiative for Wheat Improvement and expressed support for an international agricultural market information system to help reduce volatility and market distorting signals. Finally, they came out in opposition of erecting trade barriers through export bans. "This agreement is only as good as the actions we take together to aggressively confront food security’s difficult challenges, but our cooperation as reflected today is a significant achievement for the nearly one billion people grappling with hunger each day," he said.