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Biofuels production poses risk to global food security, says FAO

By Donnabelle L. Gatdula

Increasing production of bioethanol and biodiesel would have a great impact on global food security, according to a United Nation official.

In a speech during the 3rd DuPont ASEAN Media Forum, Hiroyuki Konuma, assistant director for the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, noted that biofuel development is one of the factors that influence future food security.

Aside from biofuels, other major sources of uncertainties for food security include crude oil price hikes, food price volatility and impact of climate changes.

Konuma noted that world bioethanol and biodiesel production is projected to double in 20 years.

He said this would result in increasing competition of land and water use with food production, in addition to competition in the use of food grains for bioethanol and food/feed production

To ensure sufficient food production, the UN expert said there is a need for huge investments in agricultural research and infrastructure to increase productivity.

According to Konuma, there is also a need to reduce post-harvest losses and waste.

Konuma noted that at present, global food losses and waste are estimated at 1.3 billion tons a year.

He also pointed out that agricultural yield increases may be attained, but natural resources management needs to be improved substantially to counteract competition and over use.

Safety nets and targeted approach must be developed to allow access to food by the poor, he added.

“Food is essential for our survival, stability, peace and world security. There is a need to build awareness, sense of strong solidarity among public and private sector to address the issues of sustainable consumption and reducing waste,” Konuma said.

The Philippines, he noted, is among the countries in the Asia Pacific where people are considered undernourished.

FAO estimates that globally 925 million people were undernourished in 2010. Most of the world’s hungry live in developing countries.

“The region with most undernourished people continues to be Asia and the Pacific. The proportion of under-nourished people remains highest in sub-Saharan Africa, at 30 percent in 2010.

For his part, Carl Lukach, DuPont East Asia president, said the company’s move to come up with the common security metric is consistent with their objective to help address the urgent need to feed a growing population which will reach nine billion in the world and 650 million in ASEAN in 2050.

“As part of our commitment to help feed the world, DuPont commissioned the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) to develop the Global Food Security Index to help the world understand better how best to meet the population growth challenge. It is a comprehensive measurement tool that addresses the need for specific metrics to illustrate what food security looks like at the local level, country by country and globally. What gets measured gets done,” Lukach, said.

The index is aimed at providing a worldwide perspective on food security and hopefully in the future, assist both public and private sector in coming up with appropriate courses of action to improve each country’s rank.

“Using the index which addresses the underlying factors of food security and highlights areas for improvement and reforms, it is intended that governments, NGOs, researchers, and farmer organizations in this region can share a common language and chart a comprehensive food security program, Lukach added.

Specifically, the food security index showed that the Philippines scored 43.5 out of 100 in terms of food affordability next to Thailand which ranked first with 60.9, followed by Malaysia with 60.6. This affordability index was measured based on food consumption as a share of household expenditure, proportion of population under global poverty line, gross domestic product per capita, agricultural import tariffs, presence of food safety net programs and access to farmer financing.

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