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FAO: Rural Development Could Benefit from Bioenergy

Economists with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization say biofuel crops could lead to an agricultural renaissance in developing countries.

If managed in a sustainable way, growing bioenergy industry could pave the way for agricultural renaissance and drive rural development, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Tuesday.

The FAO held talks at its office in Rome to discuss the biofuel industry's impact on food security and the environment.

While FAO economists are optimistic about the potential for biofuel production to benefit the environment and food security, those same areas could suffer unless bioenergy expansion takes food and conservation concerns into account.

For instance, the FAO says bioenergy crops should not be grown in areas without a secure food supply if the energy crops will compete with food production.

Governments must play a role in keeping bioenergy environmentally-conscious, FAO says. "Environmentally, we must make sure that both large- and small-scale producers of bioenergy fully take into account both the negative and positive impacts," says Alexander Müller, Head of FAO's Natural Resources Management and Environment Department.

"There is a key role for governments to play in setting standards of performance."

He indicated that FAO shares that responsibility as well. "International organizations such as FAO can also have a major role in providing a neutral forum and policy support." 

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