Ethanol groups issue letter to UN committee on food security

By Erin Voegele | October 07, 2013

The relationship between biofuels and food prices is once again a topic of debate in Europe. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security kicked off its annual meeting on Oct. 7 in Rome. Biofuel policy is among the issues that are scheduled to be addressed during the week-long meeting.  

In lead-up to the meeting, Oxfam international issued a statement urging governments to ensure that biofuel policies to not negatively impact poor farmers or food prices. As the meeting got underway, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, along with other biofuel trade groups, issued a letter demanding that the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition withdraw their Biofuels and Food Security report due to flaws and their refusal to release the report’s funding sources.  

The letter, addressed to the HLPE Steering Committee, was signed by Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association; Rob Vierhout, secretary general of ePURE; Scott Thurlow, president of Canadian Renewable Fuels Association; and Bliss Baker, president of the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. 

Within the letter, the trade associations express concern over the lack of transparency, openness and scientific integrity surrounding the HLPE’s Biofuels and Food Security project, which included the publication of a report last June.  In the letter, the ethanol trade associations call the report imbalanced and note it contains impractical policy recommendations.

“Specifically, we are dismayed by the manner in which the project scope was finalized, the mysterious process for appointing the Project Team, the apparent disregard for stakeholder feedback provided during consultations, the opaque and secretive ‘external review’ of the final draft report and the lack transparency on the donors who funded the exercise as well as the level of funding,” the wrote in the letter. “Given that the report is intended to inform critical public policy decisions, we believe the HLPE should withdraw the report until basic procedural deficiencies are addressed and the public has an opportunity to participate in an open and transparent deliberative process.”

The letter also stresses that the Biofuels and Food Security project has, largely excluded and disregarded the views of industry stakeholders and the general public. “The HLPE overlooked suggestions from the public regarding the study scope, failed to engage the public in the process to assign the Project Team, disregarded stakeholder comments on the V0 draft, chose not to identify who funded the exercise as well as the level of funding and neglected to conduct a truly transparent external review of the final draft. Because of these serious procedural shortcomings, we encourage the HLPEto withdraw the report until these deficiencies are appropriately addressed and the public has been given a real opportunity to participate,” state the groups in the letter.

Alternatively, Oxfam is pushing the repeatedly debunked theory that biofuels increase the price of food.  In its media release, Luca Chinotte, Oxfam food and agricultural advisor, said, “The evidence is clear. Europe and the US in particular have helped spark a global rush for biofuels that is driving poor families off their land and fueling food price rises, while big business piles up the profit.” The statement continues by claiming that the EU’s biofuel policies alone could increase corn prices by 22 percent and sugar prices by 21 percent by 2020.