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Striking a balance on developing bioenergy

Striking a balance on developing bioenergy and growing crops for food security

17 March 2015, Bangkok, Thailand – While the price of fossil fuels has seen a considerable fall in recent months, demand for bioenergy products is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, alongside the growth of crops for food, a senior official with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, made the comments during a Keynote presentation to a gathering of Thai Agricultural Engineers in Bangkok.

“The use of bio-energy is encouraged when it pays off socially, environmentally and economically,” said Konuma. “Harmonizing approaches to achieving food security and bioenergy development make more sense than pitting one process against the other – however food security must be the priority.”

Konuma pointed out that the 40th Meeting of the Committee on World Food Security in October 2013, underscored that food security and the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security should be the priority for all relevant stakeholders in biofuel development. Among the recommendations of the High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE), was an urgent need for close and pro-active coordination of food security, biofuel/bioenergy policies and energy policies, at national and international levels, as well as rapid response mechanisms in case of crisis.

The HLPE further noted that Governments should adopt a coordinated approach to both uses, but the principle that biofuels shall not compromise food security and therefore should be managed so that food access or the resources necessary for the production of food, principally land, biodiversity, water and labour are not put at risk.

“In the coming decades, significant and simultaneous increases in water, energy and food needs must be met in a context of climate change and by a degraded and depleted natural resource base,” said Konuma. “More people must be fed using less land, water and energy.”

“At the same time, it will be necessary to develop food production systems that emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions, with secure energy supplies and which are not dependent on fluctuating energy prices, while at the same time providing food security,” Konuma added.

Konuma concluded that countries must, therefore, design and implement sustainable bioenergy policies and strategies that foster both food and energy security – that are in harmony and synergy – and agricultural and rural development in a climate-smart way.

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