8 Juli 2014

New study: Debate on biofuels distracts from root causes of agricultural commodity price volatility

The German Bioethanol Industry Association (Bundesverband der deutschen Bioethanolwirtschaft - BDBe) commissioned a scholarly study to investigate claims that biofuels have been the main culprit behind rising agricultural prices and land-use conflicts

The public debate of the pros and cons of biofuels is dominated by issues related to the impact of biofuel production on the prices of agricultural commodities, food security and natural resources. The goal of the study was to analyse current literature on the various effects of global and European biofuel production and to determine to what extent the public debate is based on scholarly research.

On the occasion of the publication of the study entitled “Biofuels: Agricultural Commodity Prices, Food Security and Resource Use”, the authors, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Harald von Witzke and Dr. Steffen Noleppa, gave an overview of their analysis and findings today in Berlin. The authors arrived at the conclusion that “the emphasis on global and EU biofuels in the public debate about world food security and related issues distracts from the root causes of persisting hunger in all too many regions around the globe and, thus, may lead to inadequate political responses which in the end may increase hunger rather than reduce it.” Around the world, the group benefitting most from rising agricultural commodity prices lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for its livelihood. This represents 75% of the world’s poor who are particularly vulnerable by food supply crises.

Professor von Witzke from the Humboldt University Berlin, Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, explained:

“We are being side-tracked from the key factors actually driving changes in the prices of agricultural commodities and other variables in agricultural development. There is no question that biofuels also increase demand for agricultural commodities. More research is needed to identify the actual effects of biofuel production and consumption. Still today, it is evident that the impact of biofuels on prices and resource use is relatively low. In fact, other variables such as higher energy prices are key factors in current trends.”

Dietrich Klein, Managing Director of the BDBe, welcomed the results of the study: “We hope that the study helps refocus the public debate on objective facts, something that is urgently needed.”

Download the study (with summary in German):

Biofuels: Agricultural Commodity Prices, Food Security, and Resource Use.
agripol research paper 2014-02, agripol – network for policy advice GbR

Source: Bioethanol Industry Association (BDBe), press release, 2014-07-03.


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