UN, Schafer call for more biofuel study
ROME -- At the urging of Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, a United Nations conference on climate change, biofuels and food security in Rome June 5 formally adopted a declaration that calls for more study of biofuels, but did not say their produc...
ROME -- At the urging of Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, a United Nations conference on climate change, biofuels and food security in Rome June 5 formally adopted a declaration that calls for more study of biofuels, but did not say their production should be discouraged because they increase food prices.
Some U.N. officials had said they considered biofuels production in the United States, the European Union and Brazil to be a major factor in soaring food prices around the world. Representatives of 108 countries and the European Union gathered to address what to do about the problem.
The declaration of the U.N. High Level Conference on World Food Security: The Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy urges countries "to address the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels" through "in-depth studies" and "exchanging experiences" to make sure that biofuels production and use are sustainable.
Schafer, who chaired a conference roundtable on the causes, consequences and possible solutions for high food prices, said here that the United States finds the declaration statement on biofuels "acceptable."
The Renewable Fuels Association, the Candian Renewable Fuels Association and the European Bioethanol Fuel Association, issued a joint statement that they are "confident [further study] will underscore the valuable contribution biofuels can make to ease the energy and agriculture challenges confronting all nations."
The document, which was adopted by the consensus of the 108 countries and the European Union that sent representatives to the conference, focused on the need to provide money for poor people to buy food and on the need to get seed and fertilizer to small farmers, especially in Africa, to increase production. The declaration also included a provision urging a "rapid and successful conclusion to the World Trade Organization Doha Development Round."
A U.N. official said that France had tried to lead opposition to that provision. U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf acknowledged that there may have been debate about that issue behind the scenes, but said the biggest difficulty with with the Doha Round is not agriculture, but the inability to come to agreement on industrial policy. The declaration also included a veiled reference opposing the export bans and taxes that some countries have placed on the export of commodities.
The declaration said countries should "minimize the use of restrictive measures that could increase volatility of international prices" Argentina, which has increased taxes on its commodity exports, objected to that provision, but said it would not block adoption of the agreement. Venezuela, Cuba and Ecuador also said they were not satisfied with the declaration because it did not urge changes in the structure of world agriculture, but they also said they would not block the agreement.
Schafer announced that the United States would spend $5 billion on food aid and international agricultural development over the next 2 years, but it was unclear whether that was a new commitment on the part of the Bush administration or money it was already planning to spend. Diouf also announced that other countries had promised money and said his staff would figure out how the money would be spent and over what period of time.