Amid growing debate over the possible consequences of large-scale bioenergy production, top international experts meet at FAO headquarters today to review present knowledge of the issue and suggest a road map for the way ahead.

Experts from various countries, as well as specialists in energy, climate and the environment from FAO and other agencies will assess the overall potential for bioenergy and weigh the fast-growing industry’s possible effects on food security.

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

Biodiversity fears Biofuels, currently made from feedstock such as sugar cane, palm oil and maize, promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as they substitute for fossil energy and to create new jobs and infrastructure in rural areas. But critics warn they could cause environmental damage and loss of biodiversity as vast tracts of land are cleared for monocultures. Concern is also being voiced about the wisdom of diverting food crops away from human or animal consumption to make fuel for cars and trucks.

The experts will therefore be called on to assess potentials for bioenergy production and identify ways of producing biofuels that are sustainable in terms of the environment and food security.