The Ripple Effect: Biofuels, Food Security, and the Environment

The integration of the agricultural and energy sectors caused by rapid growth in the biofuels market signals a new era in food policy and sustainable development. For the first time in decades, agricultural commodity markets could experience a sustained increase in prices, breaking the long-term price decline that has benefited food consumers worldwide. Whether this transition occurs, and how it will affect global hunger and poverty, remain to be seen. Will food markets begin to track the volatile energy market in terms of price and availability? Will changes in agricultural commodity markets benefit net food producers and raise farm incomes in poor countries? How will biofuels-induced changes in agricultural commodity markets affect net consumers of food? At risk are over 800 million food-insecure people, mostly in rural areas and dependant to some extent on agriculture for incomes, who live on less than $1 per day and spend the majority of their incomes on food. An additional 2 to 2.5 billion people living on $1 to $2 per day are also at risk, as rising commodity prices could pull them swiftly into a food-insecure state.