Biofuels: A Solution to Climate Change or a Threat to Global Food Security?

Biofuel climate change or a threat to global food security
Discover the complex relationship between biofuels, climate change, and food security. Explore the potential benefits and challenges of biofuel production and usage in this thought-provoking blog post.
You’re using ingredients from your kitchen cabinet and fridge to cook today’s lunch. And if you run out of anything, a quick 5-minute walk takes you to the nearest supermarket. There’s a vendor nearby for a fresh supply of vegetables and fruits too. After a hearty meal, you feel energized and ready for the rest of your day. That is food security.
Food security is essential for our health, society, and development. Healthy and well-fed people contribute to the progress of the community. A lack of food security nips growth in the bud. It causes hunger and long term impacts like malnutrition and disease.
There are 4 dimensions to food security:

  • Food availability
  • Food access
  • Food utilization
  • Stability of these three dimensions over time

The Relationship Between Food Security and Biofuels

The production of biofuels has increased rapidly over the past decade. It’s a result of policies and incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That is great for environmental health.
In certain regions, this has led to competition between biofuels and food crops. Here, crops are grown only as raw materials for biofuels. So land, water and other resources which could have been used for food crops, are being used for biofuel feedstock. This has reduced the food supply.
As the demand for biofuels increases, resources can get expensive. It will make it extremely hard for low-income families. This will also trouble small-scale farmers. It will force them to compete with larger agribusinesses.
The development of biofuels has promoted infrastructure like transportation. It helps farmers reach markets and get good value for their produce. On the other hand, it has also led to diversion of food crops leading to increased food prices, impacting local communities.

Impact of Biofuels on Food Security in the Real World

Indonesia is a huge producer of biodiesel. They produced 10.24 million kiloliters of biodiesel in 2021. Over the last decade, producing biofuel has not harmed the food security of the country. This is because biofuels are made from palm oil and jatropha. And both are not used as food. Harvesting and selling these feedstocks have increased income for farmers and local communities. Which in turn has made it easier for them to access healthy food.
However, in Mexico, the production of biofuels does harm the food security. Currently, only 38% biofuel feedstock comes from jatropha and castor beans. They majorly use maize (corn) to make bioethanol. Corn is also a common food crop in the country. This has brought in competition for land usage and other resources. Making bioethanol has increased the price of maize and made it harder for Mexicans to buy food.
Policies are in place to increase jatropha-based biofuel production from 34,000L in 2016 to 102,300L in 2030. This will reduce Mexico’s reliance on maize, a food crop, for biofuels. And ultimately better food security in the region.

The Solution: Second-Generation Biofuels

One potential solution to address food security is the usage of second-generation biofuels. First-generation biofuels use crops like maize or soybean.

Second-generation biofuels use non-food crops. Some of them are agricultural residues, forestry waste, or municipal solid waste. These do not compete with food production and are sustainable. At Buyofuel, we encourage the usage of second-generation biofuels. Governments and private companies are investing in R&D of these biofuels to reduce their negative impact on food security.

Another solution to address food security concerns is improving agricultural productivity. Increasing yields on existing farmland helps meet the growing demand for food. And reduces the need to convert more land into agricultural production. International cooperation and policies, collaboration between countries play a crucial role too.
Overall, biofuels have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But they can also negatively impact food security if not produced responsibly. Along with policy makers, we must balance the benefits and impacts. It’s our collective responsibility to ensure biofuels production is both sustainable and socially responsible.

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