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Reconciling food security and bioenergy: priorities for action...

Publication Type
Journal Name
GCB Bioenergy
Publication Date
Page Numbers
557 to 576

Addressing the challenges of understanding and managing complex interactions among food security, biofuels, and land management requires a focus on specific contextual problems and opportunities. The United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals prioritize food and energy security and bioenergy links these two priorities. Effective food security programs begin by clearly defining the problem and asking, “What options will be effective to assist people at high risk?” Headlines and cartoons that blame biofuels for food insecurity reflect good intentions but mislead the public and policy makers because they obscure or miss the main drivers of local food insecurity and opportunities for biofuels to contribute to solutions. Applying sustainability guidelines to bioenergy will help achieve near- and long- term goals to eradicate hunger. Priorities for achieving successful synergies between bioenergy and food security include (1) clarifying communications with clear and consistent terms, (2) recognizing that food and bioenergy do not compete for land but food and bioenergy systems can and do work together to improve resource management, (3) investing in innovations to build capacity and infrastructure such as rural agricultural extension and technology, (4) promoting stable prices that incentivize local production, (5) adopting flex crops that can provide food along with other products and services to society, and (6) engaging stakeholders in identifying and assessing specific opportunities for biofuels to improve food security. Systematic monitoring and analysis to support adaptive management and continual improvement are essential elements to build synergies and help society equitably meet growing demands for both food and energy.