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


  • Matias Margulis University of Stirling



biofuel, governance, WTO


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.

Author Biography

Matias Margulis, University of Stirling

Matias E. Margulis is Lecturer in Political Economy at the University of Stirling. A former Canadian delegate to the WTO, OECD and United Nations agencies, his research focuses on global governance, international trade and human rights. Recent publications include “Forum-Shopping for Global Food Security Governance? Canada’s approach at the G8 and UN Committee for World Food Security” (Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 2015), “Trading Out of the Global Food Crisis? The WTO and the Geopolitics of Agro-Power” (Geopolitics, 2014) and Land Grabbing and Global Governance (Routledge 2014, edited with Nora McKeon and Saturnino Borras, Jr.).




How to Cite

Margulis, M. (2015). GFT - Regulating food-based agrofuels: The prospects and challenges of international trade rules. Canadian Food Studies / La Revue Canadienne Des études Sur l’alimentation, 2(2), 97–106.