Combining bioenergy production and food security

May 2013

This report analyses whether and how bioenergy can be produced within the context of food insecurity. With this study, the NL Agency aims to contribute to Dutch Development Cooperation policy on food security by showing in which way producing and using biomass for energy does not compete with food security, but contributes to it.
The recent rise in bioenergy use, in particular biofuels, is driven by concerns over energy security, climate change and rising fossil fuel prices. Several leading studies expect that the global bioenergy market will further expand in the future. This requires changes in the way food is produced, stored, processed, distributed, and accessed, and also a rethinking of how biomass is used for bioenergy.
Food security has four dimensions:
1. Availability of sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality, supplied through domestic production or imports (including food aid). Available land and food production play an important role.
2. Access by individuals to adequate resources for acquiring appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. Land, income and consumer prices play an important role
3. Utilisation: Utilisation of food through adequate diet, clean water, sanitation and health care to reach a state of nutritional well-being where all physiological needs are met. Income and local consumer food prices play an important role.
4. Stability: To be food secure, a population, household or individual must have access to adequate food at all times. Macro-economic conditions play an important role in stability.
The effect of bioenergy production on food security through these variables is sometimes positive (e.g. on food access through producer prices and household income), sometimes negative (on food availability through food production, food trade or food access through consumer prices) and sometimes goes either way (on utilisation and stability dimensions through macro-economic variables). As a result, generic claims stating that bioenergy production is a risk to food security or benefits food security should be treated with caution. Such claims often reflect a partial view on the issues at hand.
The Dutch government has set the following goals for food security in Dutch Development Cooperation policy:
1. Increased sustainable food production.
2. Improved access to food of sufficient quality.
3. Improved functioning of markets.
4. Improved investment climate.
This report assesses to what extent biomass production for biofuels is consistent with each of the goals of food security policy of the Netherlands.

By: T. Achterbosch, G. Meijerink, E. Smeets, M. Slingerland

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