More than at any time in the past three decades, the world’s attention is focused this year on food and agriculture. A variety of factors have combined to raise food prices to the highest levels since the 1970 (in real terms), with serious implications for food security among poor populations around the world. One of the most frequently mentioned contributing factors is the rapid recent growth in the use of agricultural commodities – including some food crops – for the production of biofuels. Yet the impact of biofuels on food prices remains the subject of considerable debate, as does their potential to contribute to energy security, climate-change mitigation and agricultural development. Even while this debate continues, countries around the world confront important choices about policies and investments regarding biofuels. These were among the topics discussed at FAO in June 2008 by delegations from 181 countries attending the High-Level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy.
Given the urgency of these choices and the magnitude of their potential consequences, participants at the Conference agreed that careful assessment of the prospects, risks and opportunities posed by biofuels is essential. This is the focus of FAO’s 2008 report on the State of Food and Agriculture.