Impacts of bioenergy on food security

Mar 2012

Modern bioenergy development, through its environmental and socio-economic impacts, may have positive or negative effects on the four dimensions of food security: availability; access; utilization, and stability. Both the nature and magnitude of the impacts of modern bioenergy development on food security will depend on a number of factors, related mainly to the type of bioenergy considered, the way production is managed, and the environmental, socio-economic and policy context in which such development takes place. In particular, these factors include:
- the environmental and socio-economic characteristics of the specific country, area or group considered;
- the regional, national and local policy environment;
- the types of bioenergy, feedstocks and processing technologies;
- the types of agricultural and forestry management approaches, systems and practices
adopted in bioenergy feedstock production;
- the scale and ownership of production, and
- the types of business models found along the bioenergy supply chain.
When assessing the impacts of modern bioenergy development on food security, an important aspect to consider is the time horizon of the assessment, which may affect quite significantly its outcome and the analysis and interpretation of its results.
Another important aspect concerns the scale(s) where the impacts of bioenergy production on food security may arise and/or be felt. Some of the impacts (both positive and negative) of bioenergy on food security may arise from – and be attributed to – specific bioenergy projects and operations. Most of these impacts will be localized in and around bioenergy production areas. Other impacts of bioenergy on food security will be the result of the cumulative effects of the domestic bioenergy sector.
A third category entails the local-level impacts attributable to specific bioenergy projects and operations which may also trigger impacts at larger scales.
Last, but not least, there is an important international dimension to the links between bioenergy and food security and to the impacts of the former on the latter.
This report provides a set of indicators that can be used to carry out such assessments. In particular, the second chapter describes a methodology for assessing, through different steps and tiers, the effects of bioenergy use and domestic production on the price and supply of a national food basket. This indicator, which was developed based on technical inputs from FAO and the BEFSCI project, was agreed by the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) as part of a set of 24 sustainability indicators for bioenergy. The third chapter focuses on the project level and provides a tool that can be used to assess how an existing or planned agricultural operation with a bioenergy component may affect food security. The tool, which is also available online, comprises a number of indicators, which address key environmental and socio-economic aspects of agricultural operations that are directly linked to one or more dimensions of food security. Lastly, the fourth chapter  of the report discusses a range of  possible responses to address the impacts identified through the aforementioned indicators at both national and project levels.


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