MEPs vote to cap biofuel production from food crops despite warnings on EU protein deficit

By Jane Byrne contact

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Related tags: European union, European parliament, Eu

MEPs vote to cap biofuel production from food crops despite warnings on EU protein deficit
Members of the European Parliament’s environment committee backed a draft law on Tuesday that says first-generation biofuels from food crops should not exceed 6% of the final energy consumption in transport by 2020.

Farmer groups, meal producers and the EU biofuels sector had been calling on the MEPs to favor having at least 8% of transport fuels made from crop-based fuels. 

They had argued that limiting the production of first generation biofuels would cut the EU rapeseed surface area by one third, cause disturbances on the cereals and sugar markets, as well as hinder possible crop diversification through rotation, and prevent the EU plant protein deficit from being rebalanced.

But the draft law approved this week will now cap the production of traditional biofuels and accelerate the shift to alternative sources such as seaweed and waste in a move MEPs say will reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from the use of farm land to produce biofuel crops.

The MEPs say using land to produce biofuel feedstuffs adds pressure to free up more land, through deforestation, to grow food crops - a process known as indirect land use change (ILUC).

Lead MEP, Finland’s Nils Torvalds, has now received a mandate to start negotiations with the Latvian Presidency of the Council of Ministers for a possible second reading agreement.

'Misguided policy making'

A spokesperson for Copa-Cogeca told us, despite Tuesday's vote, it will continue to press its view that limiting the percentage of first generation biofuels from arable crops will harm the stability of agricultural markets and underutilize EU production capacity.

"A stable and targeted decarbonisation policy to support biofuels, including certified sustainable ones made from arable crops, is vital post-2020​," she said.

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

The UK's National Farmers Union (NFU), commenting after the vote, said the imposition of ILUC factors "represents another example of misguided policy making by damaging a developing industry with legislation based on selectively relying on inconclusive and highly debatable scientific evidence."

However, Kenneth Richter, biofuels campaigner at NGO, Friends of the Earth, backed the action of the MEPs in their support for amendments to the EU’s biofuels policy. Though he argues the proposed reforms do not go far enough.

“Current biofuels policy is destroying forests, sending food prices soaring and may even be causing an increase in climate-changing pollution. The UK government must now make sure that the proposed reforms of EU biofuel legislation are not watered down further in the European Council,"​ said Richter. 

Related topics: Sustainability, Regulation

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