International institutions

Biofuel studies by international bodies

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

“Some biofuels may, under certain conditions, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In practice, however, the global effects of an expansion of biofuel production will depend crucially on where and how the feedstocks are produced. Land-use change resulting from increased feedstock production is a key determining factor. For many locations, emissions from land-use change – whether direct or indirect – are likely to exceed, or at least offset, much of the greenhouse gas savings obtained by using biofuels for transport. Moreover, even when biofuels are effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they may not be the most cost-effective way of achieving this objective compared with other options.”

“It must be ensured that further expansion of biofuel production will provide a positive contribution to climate-change mitigation. For this purpose, there is a critical need for an improved understanding of the effects of biofuels on land-use change, which is the source of the most significant effects on greenhouse gas emissions.”

FAO (2008): The State of Food and Agriculture 2008

“EU palm oil imports have already doubled during the 2000-2006 period, mostly to substitute for rapeseed oil diverted from food to fuel uses.”

Thoenes, P. (2006): Biofuels and Commodity Markets – Palm Oil Focus. Rome: FAO Commodities and Trade Division.


“During the 2007-2009 period biofuels accounted for a significant share of global use of several crops – 20% for sugar cane, 9% for vegetable oil and coarse grains and 4% for sugar beet. Projections encompass a broad range of possible effects but all suggest that biofuel production will exert considerable upward pressure on prices in the future.”

“Moreover, as long as governments impose mandates (obligations to blend fixed proportions of biofuels with fossil fuels, or binding targets for share of biofuels in energy use), biofuel production will aggravate the price inelasticity of demand that contributes to volatility in agricultural prices.”

OECD et al. (2011): Price volatility in Food & Agricultural Markets – Policy Responses

“If biofuel production incentives increase a country’s market price for a commodity that is used as a biofuel feedstock, domestic cropland may be used more intensively, crops may be reallocated on existing cropland, or the cropland base may be expanded onto non-cropland acres, leading to higher world market prices. Higher world market prices will induce both intensity and expansion of crop production use in other countries, releasing additional GHG emissions into the atmosphere.”

OECD (2012): Greenhouse Gas Accounting: Life Cycle Analysis of Biofuels and Land Use Change

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

“Altogether, the land conversion for biofuel cropland could lead to significant GHG emissions. Even if abandoned land and pastures were mainly used, a global average of up to 10% biofuel use for transport would render the overall mitigation effect of the use of first-generation biofuels questionable.”

Bringezu, S. et al (2009): Towards sustainable production and use of resources: Assessing Biofuels