Will Brazil be able to persuade about 30 Latin American and Caribbean countries that biofuels production is not a threat to food security in the region? According to the minister of Agrarian Development, Guilherme Cassel, that's what Brazil will try to accomplish.
Brazilians will raise the issue during the 30th Regional Conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to be held from the 14th to the 18th of this month in the Brazilian capital Brasília.
"We want to make a point that it is important, not just for Brazil but for the entire world, to develop biofuels policies. We also want to reassert what President Lula has claimed, that it does not necessarily compete with food production. Yes, it is possible to produce biofuel and food," said Cassel during a press conference about the FAO meeting.
One of the four discussion sections, which take place every two years and sets the priorities for FAO action, should tackle the opportunities offered and the challenges posed by bioenergy. According to José Graziano, director at FAO for Latin America and the Caribbean, a consensus has not yet been reached with regard to biofuels production.
"It is a very controversial subject, opinions diverge in Latin American countries," admits the former minister extraordinaire for Food Security and Hunger Combat.
He recognizes that biofuel production using corn in the United States affects Caribbean and Central American countries, which import large amounts of North American corn for animal feed. But he believes that biofuels may also represent a development opportunity to many countries.
"There is this situation and this conflict. But there is also the recognition, by the FAO, of the fact that this is an opportunity of planting fuel, of being able to replace oil, which is selling for US$ 100 per barrel," he asserts, citing countries such as Cuba, Chile and Uruguay, which import 100% of the power they consume.
"Producing energy is a new possibility, and it creates opportunities for farmers to have an alternate source of income," he says.