Biofuel and global biodiversity

Apr 2008

The current situation in agricultural commodity markets is unique; rarely in recent decades has the agricultural industry experienced sustained high prices for commodities.
This creates a new set of environmental concerns, makes industrial agricultural production economically viable in places that it was not previously and exposes inadequate land-use policies in the U.S. and throughout the world.
These and many other drivers have contributed to the complex relationship between agricultural production and biodiversity, which has changed dramatically in large part because of the widespread shift from small-scale, locally based agriculture to large scale, industrialized agriculture over the past half a century. Modern industrial methods of farming are almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels. And the shift toward industrial agriculture has also diminished the genetic diversity of domesticated plants and animals, as well as biodiversity in ecosystems.
Growth in the biofuel market provides a unique opportunity to develop new agricultural cropping systems, while it also creates new challenges to limiting the encroachment of agricultural production systems on ecosystems that maintain much of the world’s biodiversity.
This paper explores the impact of current biofuel production systems on biodiversity and provides recommendations for moving biofuel production toward more sustainable systems that enhance, rather than damage, biodiversity.

By: D. Keeney, C. Nanninga (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy - Minnesota)

download this document:   773 kb