Experts gather for UN meeting to discuss benefits and perils of bioenergy

16 April 2007

Specialists from around the world are meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome today to discuss bioenergy production and the opportunities and dangers that the industry poses, especially for food security and the environment.

Specialists from around the world are meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome today to discuss bioenergy production and the opportunities and dangers that the industry poses, especially for food security and the environment.

The three-day meeting, ending on Wednesday, is expected to conclude with a set of recommendations for the way forward, including the identification of ways to produce more environmentally sustainable biofuels, FAO said in a news release.

Biofuels are currently made from such materials as sugar cane, palm oil and maize and, given they can substitute for fossil fuels, hold the potential to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They could also boost employment and infrastructure in rural areas.

But there have been warnings that large tracts of land are being cleared for monocultures, causing environmental damage and a loss of biodiversity. The merit of using food crops to make fuel for vehicles rather than for consumption by humans or animals is also being questioned.

“Bioenergy holds out enormous opportunities for farmers, especially in the developing world,” said Gustavo Best, FAO’s Senior Energy Coordinator. “But there are dangers too, and we want to be very clear about them.”

 

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