Regulating food-based agrofuels: The prospects and challenges of international trade rules

Matias Margulis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


First paragraph: This article considers the potential for strategic and selective use of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules to regulate, and potentially curb, the expansion of food-based agrofuels. Since 2008, a global agrofuel complex has emerged that is characterized by government-led mandates and investment for food-based agrofuel production and trade. The majority of world agrofuel production utilizes basic foodstuffs-sugar, corn/maize, soy and palm oil-thus generating competition between food/feed and fuel end-uses. This competition is strongly linked to food price volatility, food insecurity and land grabbing on a global-scale. Food-based agrofuel production is projected to increase significantly over the next decade, with international trade of agrofuels growing in tandem due to rising global demand. Despite well-documented social and ecological consequences associated with food-based agrofuels, producing and consuming states demonstrate a lack of political will to curb future agrofuel expansion and, in particular, continue to resist demands by global civil society and other social groups for global agrofuels regulation. In a global political economic context best characterized by a global governance gap for agrofuels, I consider the prospects and challenges of strategic and selective application of WTO rules to regulate food-based agrofuels. Also considered is the legitimacy and efficacy of the WTO to fill the existing global governance gap for agrofuels, and the potential of alternative global governance institutions to play this role.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-106
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Food Studies / La Revue canadienne des études sur l'alimentation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2015


  • biofuel
  • governance
  • WTO


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