Capping biofuels from land crops could threaten EU protein production for feed, says farmer and oilseed groups

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Agriculture European union Eu

Capping biofuels from land crops could threaten EU protein production for feed, says farmer and oilseed groups
Farmer groups and the EU biofuels sector are calling MEPs to ensure that at least 8% of transport fuels come from biofuels made from arable crops by 2020 when they vote on future EU biofuel policy tomorrow.

Members of the European Parliament’s environment committee will hold a crucial vote on the issue tomorrow following a report by MEP Nils Torvalds.

Torvalds backs a 6% restriction for land-based biofuels. Most member states want at least 7% and with the cap limited to food crops. Countries such as France, Poland and Spain are threatening to veto anything lower.

Indirect Land Use Changes

Of particular focus for the MEPs will be whether to include Indirect Land Use Changes (ILUC) in the legislative provisions. This is the indirect displacement of forest by crops grown for fuel.

Biodiesel, which accounts for about fourth-fifths of all biofuel use in Europe, uses as its feedstocks rapeseed, palm oil and soy, which the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) says have a very high ILUC footprint.

Copa-Cogeca and other lobby groups including the European vegetable oil and protein meal industry, FEDIOL, oppose the inclusion of ILUC in the regulations saying the methodology is “not backed by science”.

“The model used for the report is not transparent and not suitable for precisely estimating the extent of land use change in non-EU countries and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions, due to critical data errors and important methodical problems,”​ says the lobby group.

EU protein deficiency

A spokesperson for Copa-Cogeca, told FeedNavigator today: “We believe current EU biofuels policy supports food security as only a fraction of rapeseed or wheat is used to produce biodiesel or bioethanol. The rest is a protein-rich by-product used for animal feed, which therefore allows the EU to decrease its dependency on soya imports. 

We urge MEPs to favour having at least 8% of transport fuels made from crop-based fuels.

The Commission proposal to introduce a 5% cap for first generation biofuels could lead to a reduction in EU rapeseed surface area by one third, disturbances on the cereals and sugar markets, as well as a reduction in possible crop diversification through rotation. Capping first generation biofuels would prevent the EU plant protein deficit from being rebalanced.”

Stability of agriculture markets

The EU farm lobby says capping first generation biofuels could also harm the stability of agricultural markets and underutilize EU production capacity.

“The risk that arable land will be abandoned is real - between 1.5 and 2 million hectares of arable land in the EU have not been brought back into production since the end of set-aside schemes in 2009 and the full production potential of the new member states has not yet been realized. Capping could also undermine investments in second-generation biofuels, and in the bio-economy in general,”​ said the Copa-Cogeca spokesperson.

Mike Hambly, the UK’s National Farmers Union combinable crops board chairman, presenting at a conference on the topic in Brussels last month, argued that introducing ILUC methodology into EU policymaking would rule out domestically produced rapeseed and biodiesel, hitting farming revenue and rural jobs in lesser productive European regions.

Speaking at the same event, Fred Ghatala, head of delegation for Canada to the International Standards Organization (ISO), said, following an extensive review, the ISO reached a consensus that ILUC science is inconclusive and it won’t include ILUC in its standards until the science is more developed.

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