New and Emerging Issues in International Agricultural Trade Law
Research Handbooks on the WTO series
Edited by Joseph A. McMahon and Melaku Geboye Desta
Chapter 10: Biofuels, Food Security and the WTO Agreement on Agriculture
Stephanie Switzer I. INTRODUCTION The past ten years have witnessed a ﬂurry of interest in the promotion of biofuels as an alternative to conventional fossil fuels. Biofuels may be deﬁned as ‘liquid or gaseous fuels produced from biomass that can be used to replace petrol, diesel and other transport fuels’ (Keam and McCormick, 2008: 8). At present, biofuels are commercially available in two forms: bioethanol and biodiesel. Bioethanol is suitable for blending with conventional petrol and is produced from crops containing starch or sugar such as sugar cane, sugar beet and corn. Biodiesel, the term given to ‘fatty acid methyl ester’ (FAME), has been touted as a replacement for conventional diesel and is produced in large part from plant oils such as palm oil and rapeseed (Kojima et al., 2007: 29; Petillion, 2005). Both ethanol and biodiesel may be processed at a range of scales, from a subsistence level to large-scale industrial production intended for international markets. Biofuels produced from food crops such as corn, sugar and vegetable oils are generally referred to as ‘ﬁrst generation’ biofuels. There is, however, growing interest in so-called ‘second generation’ biofuels derived from lignin, cellulose and hemi-cellulose, although such fuels are not currently in commercial production and are unlikely to be for a number of years (Howse et al., 2006: 7). It is anticipated that when production of second-generation biofuels becomes commercially viable, they will be able to garner larger yields than their ﬁrst generation counterparts. Perhaps of greatest signiﬁcance is the...
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