Canadian Biomass Magazine

Friends of the Earth and Searchinger’s flawed report

July 15, 2013
By Canadian Biomass

July 15, 2013, Toronto – The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) criticized a new study by Friends of the Earth for its use of misinformation and controversial theory on land use impacts of biofuels.

The report, Understanding
the Biofuel Trade-offs between Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC), Hunger and
Poverty', by Timothy Searchinger, relies on the unproven theory of Indirect
Land Use Change (ILUC) and is silent on some of the underlying causes of global
hunger when attempting to make a connection between biofuels production and
food security.

Searchinger's theory of
ILUC, which he first wrote about in 2008, attempts to predict future land use
patterns globally that might result from the increased production of biofuels.
This theory has since been disproven by an overwhelming number of scientists
and academics that have discredited the methodology and its outcomes.

"ILUC has proven to be
faulty because modeling relies on hundreds of assumptions, not facts, to
predict future land use patterns around the world," stated Bliss Baker,
spokesperson for the GRFA. "There is an abundance of evidence that shows ILUC
to have no ability to accurately predict future land use patterns and that
Searchinger was wrong."

Back in 2008 Searchinger
stated, "Higher (crop) prices triggered by biofuels will accelerate forest and
grassland conversion [in Latin America] even if surplus croplands exist


This has been proven to be false
by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE) which found that
deforestation rates are at their lowest since tracking began in 1988. In 2012,
deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon amounted to 1,798 square miles – down 27
per cent from 2011 and less than one-fifth of the deforestation rates seen a
decade ago. In that same time period global ethanol production has more than

"When attempting to draw a
link between biofuels production and hunger, Searchinger conveniently ignores
the fact that the world produces twice as much food as is consumed. It is well
understood that food security and hunger are directly related to poverty,
accessibility, and a lack of investment in agriculture to name a few of the
underlying issues," stated Baker.

A recent study, Global Food
– Waste Not, Want Not, by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)
found that half of all global food, 1 to 2 billion tons, goes to waste before
reaching peoples stomachs each year. According to the IMechE study, food is
wasted at every point in the supply chain, including ­- poor harvesting
practices, storage, transportation, market waste and consumer waste. In
developing countries, waste occurs mostly at the farmer-producer end of the
supply chain and moves up the chain the more developed the country. In developed
countries, grocery stores often reject produce because it does not meet certain
appearance standards.

"The primary challenge of
food security is not how much food we grow but how efficiently we grow it,
distribute it and how much of it we waste. It is well understood that global
food production far exceeds our needs today and the scale of food waste
worldwide is unacceptably high. We must take this problem seriously," said

It is widely accepted that
the price of crude oil is the largest component in the cost of our food because
it affects every stage of food production. From farm to table, oil price spikes
can increase the cost of fertilizer, inflate the cost of packaging and raise
the cost of transportation. This translates to crude oil prices having a
disproportionate affect on food prices where the price of food rises with the
price of oil.

"We frankly would have
expected a more rigorous and credible report coming from Friends of the Earth,"
said Baker. "If Searchinger and Friends of the Earth were really concerned
about poverty, they would place greater importance and focus on the price of
oil, which has always had the greatest impact on the price of food."

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