Commentary

Committee on World Food Security: High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition draft report: Biofuels and Food Security

Comments from Biofuelwatch, EcoNexus and Global Forest Coalition

January 2013

Biofuelwatch, EcoNexus & Global Forest Coalition

The 2011 Report on Price volatility and food security by the HLPE on Food Security and Nutrition provided well-researched and high-quality evidence about the role of biofuels in recent food price rises and price volatility.
We had therefore anticipated that the draft report “Biofuels and Food Security” by the HLPE on Food Security and Nutrition would build on and further develop the evidence collated for the 2011 report. Instead, we have been deeply disappointed by the low quality of evidence and inaccuracies contained within this draft report. While some paragraphs and statements are based on convincing evidence, so many are not that we believe the report needs to be sent back to be substantially re-written before being put out to public consultation again. Below are examples of some of the serious flaws we have found in the report followed by key concerns about the draft recommendations.

Arguments against a proposed programme of work on agriculture under the UNFCCC’s scientific advice committee (SBSTA)

Helena Paul

December 2011

An agriculture work programme may sound attractive to those who are concerned about issues like:

  • Agriculture emissions increase climate change – and agriculture is profoundly affected by climate change
  • Agriculture has a severe impact on forests
  • Soils can store a great deal of carbon - but does that mean there should be a soil carbon market?

Others cite the need to support peasants, “smallholder farmers”, local production and food sovereignty. They want a programme of work on agriculture on condition that such issues are prioritised and that the programme addresses adaptation equally with mitigation.
Several Parties and international institutions advocate an agriculture work programme with the aim of using agriculture and soil carbon to offset emissions. The aim is to link agriculture and REDD+ under the title of climate-smart agriculture and apply the “integrated landscape approach”. This could lead to every aspect of agriculture, indeed the whole landscape, being measured in terms of carbon, even though there are serious scientific questions about the validity, let alone the possibility, of this approach.

Biochar Knowledge Gaps

tags & links:

Commentary

May 2011

Helena Paul

Biochar is biomass burned in the near absence of oxygen and it is basically identical to charcoal, but used for different purposes. It is being widely promoted by various interests as a soil amendment and to sequester carbon, often with little detailed argument or evidence in support of the claims made.
The book "Biochar for Environmental Management" provides of a large collection of articles about biochar by a total of some 50 researchers and specialists from a wide range of universities, government departments and companies. It demonstrates clearly that there are major gaps in knowledge. However, at the same time, some writers speak of biochar as a means to address climate change and propose it for carbon markets, in spite of these knowledge gaps.

GM chicken - a solution to bird flu?

Dr. Ricarda A. Steinbrecher & Dr. Susanne Gura

January 2011

On 14 January 2011, Science published an article by Lyall et al. entitled 'Suppression of Avian Influenza Transmission in Genetically Modified Chickens'. The authors state themselves that their research and results are about a 'proof of principle' - something which by definition is a long way away from actual applicability and does not consider any safety issues.

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