ROME -- At the urging of U.S. officials, a U.N. conference on climate change, biofuels and food security Thursday formally adopted a declaration that calls for more study of biofuels, amid some grumbling that biofuel production has led to a run-up in world food prices.
The declaration urges countries "to address the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels" to make sure that biofuels production and use are sustainable.
Agriculture Secretary Schafer, who chaired a conference roundtable on the causes, consequences and possible solutions for high food prices, said that the United States finds the declaration statement on biofuels acceptable. Schafer said the issue was not divisive at the summit, but some U.N. officials and attendees from other countries said they considered biofuels to be a major factor in soaring food prices.
The declaration included a provision urging a "rapid and successful conclusion to the World Trade Organization Doha Development Round."
A U.N. official said France tried to lead opposition to that provision. U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf acknowledged that there may have been debate about that issue behind the scenes, but said the biggest difficulty with the Doha Round is not agriculture, but the inability to come to agreement on industrial policy.
Schafer announced that the United States would spend $5 billion on food aid and international agricultural development over the next two years, but it was unclear whether that was a new commitment on the part of the Bush administration or money it was already planning to spend.
This article appears in the June 7, 2008, edition of National Journal Daily.