Global biofuel industry representatives defend their product at UN conference

Photo by Hummanna. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.

Food security is a big issue in global politics these days, and the UN is starting a three-day conference in Rome today to discuss it. Since some food crops are currently used to make fuel, representatives from the biofuel industry wanted to make their voice heard in Italy. To that end, Gordon Quaiattini of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, Rob Vierhout from the European Bioethanol Fuel Association, and Bob Dinneen of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) in the U.S. have sent a letter to the UN conference leaders explaining their views. You can download the letter (PDF) or read it by clicking here (that's page 1, then 2 and 3).

The letter warns the UN and anyone else against singling about biofuels as a "major cause" of the recent upswing in food prices, calling such an attitude "highly precipitous." In a sign of just how quickly things move, the letter faults the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for using oil price estimates contained in a December 2007 Organization of Economic Co­operation and Development (OECD) report. The letter says that those prices are outdated, since, "Oil prices have increased some 40% since December. Moreover, many recent long­range projections show future oil prices at much higher levels (one has oil prices rising to $150 per barrel by the end of this year)." That's where a lot of the rise in food prices lie, the letter says, not in biofuel crops. Read more from the RFA after the jump.

Press Release:

Biofuel Industry Leaders Weigh in on World Food Summit
Criticize Attacks on Biofuels

WASHINGTON, June 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Ahead of a United Nations conference on food security and climate change, unfair blame has been leveled against the world biofuels industry as playing a major role in the food crisis we are experiencing today. Addressing this manufactured hysteria, the leaders of the biofuels industries in the United States, Canada and Europe today sent a letter to UN Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf and those world leaders attending the summit urging them not to single out biofuels and ignore those factors that have played a much more significant role in driving up the price of food worldwide.

In their letter to Dr. Diouf and world leaders, Gordon Quaiattini (Canadian Renewable Fuels Association), Rob Vierhout (European Bioethanol Fuel Association), and Bob Dinneen (Renewable Fuels Association) wrote that "there are multiple causes for the rapid rise in world food prices. These include weather events such as droughts and destructive storms, changing dietary habits, skyrocketing oil and fuel prices, commodity speculators, the declining value of the US dollar, and failed international agricultural policies."

The letter cited the Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, who concluded "the production of corn starch ethanol is responsible for just three percent of the 43 percent rise in world food prices, hardly the driving force that some would have everyone believe."

The letter also pointed to "the significant economic damage caused by daily record high prices for crude oil. These prices affect the cost of producing and transporting food worldwide, not to mention the processing and packaging of these items." Citing skyrocketing prices for diesel fuel and fertilizer, the letter said, "a highly constrained supply of crude oil and petroleum products is wreaking havoc on all countries and markets across the globe, especially with respect to food."

According to the letter, "The world's farmers can meet the challenges of today's crisis. The world does not lack for arable land or highly efficient food production methods. What it lacks are sound international agricultural policies that allow farmers, especially in food importing countries, to meet the food demands of their fellow citizens. Increasing the production of food and expanding biofuel production are not mutually exclusive activities."

The text of the entire letter can be found at

[Source: Renewable Fuel Association]

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