FAO urges review of biofuels policy

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) cautioned that increasing the world's use of biofuels would only push up global food prices while having little effect on greenhouse-gas emissions, Reuters reported.

In its annual "State of Food and Agriculture" report, released Tuesday, the FAO found that "while biofuels will offset only a modest
share of fossil energy use over the next decade, they will have much bigger impacts on agriculture and food security."

Calling for an urgent review of "current policies supporting, subsidising and mandating biofuel production and use", the agency
urged more funding toward "second-generation" fuels from non-food plant matter, such as algae or straw.

The global food-import bill is expected to jump 26% to US$1.035 trillion in 2008, due to price rises in rice, wheat and vegetable
oils, the FAO said. The agency noted that a rise in biofuels has put more people at risk of hunger and in need of assistance.

The report also states that while crops used for biofuels — such as maize, sugar, oil seeds and palm oil — do soak up carbon dioxide as
they grow, the fuel used in their cultivation and processing decreases that efficiency. If trees are cleared to plant the crops, it continued, any gains can be lost.

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