Government Response to report on global food security

11 September 2013

The International Development Committee (IDC) published a report on Global Food Security in June, but Members of the Committee have now criticised the Government’s response, particularly its attitudes to biofuels and the strategic storage of food stocks.

Ministers are reluctant to reform the Government’s policies on biofuels. The IDC, whilst supportive of certain types of biofuels such as those derived from waste products, concluded that agriculturally-produced biofuels are undermining global food security by driving higher and more volatile food prices. The Committee called on the UK government to revise its domestic Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) to exclude agriculturally-produced biofuels.

But the Government has told IDC it remains reluctant to act until EU-level negotiations on Indirect Land Use Change [ILUC] factors (to cut greenhouse gas emissions) have concluded.  
Commenting on this response, Sir Malcolm Bruce, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The Government is guilty of short-term thinking on this.  We are not saying that biofuels are all bad, but we do have some serious concerns about agriculturally-produced biofuels. These biofuels not only displace food crops, but also provide energy sources that are, in some cases, potentially more damaging to the environment than fossil fuels.”

IDC also called for the Government to consider under what circumstances it would be appropriate for a national government to store strategic stocks of food for the purpose or ensuring national food security but ministers reject this suggestion, citing a document published last year by the World Bank.

Commenting on this topic Jeremy Lefroy, MP for Stafford and member of the Committee, said:

“The Government’s refusal to conduct even basic research on the role of strategic stockholding is baffling. While such practices can be problematic in some circumstances, they can also be critical to food security.”

The Government also refused to fully accept the Committee’s recommendations on agricultural extension services (training), and argues that publicly-funded extension services have a poor track record of delivery.

Jeremy Lefroy said:

“Our report states that extension services should be funded from locally generated revenue flows, but that does not necessarily mean they have to be publicly-funded out of tax revenues: they are often funded by levies paid by producers instead.
In any event, there are many examples of publicly-funded extension services which have been successful, so I cannot accept the Government’s dismissal of publicly-funded extension services.”

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