Commission biofuel plan puts EU protein production at risk: FEFAC

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/narloch-liberra
© iStock/narloch-liberra

Related tags Biodiesel Agriculture Eu

EU feed industry representatives urge the EU Commission to evaluate the impact of the proposed phase-out of crop-based biofuels after 2020, warning such a move will have a detrimental impact on the sector’s capacity to use locally produced proteins.

The Commission, which last week introduced a package of measures to accelerate the transition to low-carbon emissions in all sectors of the EU economy, is of the view​ that post 2020 biofuels that do not lead to substantial greenhouse gas savings and are produced from crops used for food and feed should not be subsidized.

And it wants to replace them by more advanced biofuels.

However, a spokesperson for the EU Compound Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC), told us: “EU rapeseed meal is an important protein source for feed manufacturers. If this production goes down, feed manufacturers will have to rely even more on imported proteins.”​ 

Biodiesel, which accounts for about fourth-fifths of all biofuel use in Europe, uses rapeseed as one of its feedstocks. 

And vegetable protein meals, resulting from biodiesel production, provide a significant contribution to the protein supply of the EU livestock sector, added FEFAC. 

Impact assessment

The EU trade group wants the Commission to create a robust EU protein balance sheet that would serve as input to an impact assessment of the phase out of crop-based biofuels on all sectors:

"The protein balance sheet is a detailed overview of the protein produced and consumed in the EU, and taking into account imported crops compared to those produced in the EU. This also means looking at total protein production, next to protein rich crops. For example in wheat production there is also about 10% protein content on average.

"And not all proteins are created equally, it comes down to the need for highly digestible proteins, specific amino acids, sometimes. A comprehensive balance sheet would map out the relative competitiveness of EU protein production and would, ideally, serve as input to EU policy making on greening measures and future biofuels policy,"​ said the FEFAC spokesperson.

Reacting to the measures, the farm lobby, Copa & Cogeca, said it welcomed the move on advanced biofuels but rejected outright the phasing out of EU targets for conventional biofuels after 2020, warning they are vital to ensure a sustainable, low-carbon economy.

“Conventional biofuels produced from EU arable crops not only provide the EU with environmentally-friendly transport fuels to decarbonize road transport in an inexpensive way but also ensure food security and balance the EU agricultural markets.

“They boost animal feed supplies as only a fraction of the crop is used to produce biodiesel or bioethanol. The rest is a protein-rich by-product used for animal feed which is crucial for livestock producers especially in the current crisis.

“They also create an extra source of income for farmers and the biofuels industry is a key source of growth and jobs in EU rural areas. They [conventional biofuels] are part of the solution and help the EU agriculture sector to fight climate change and achieve the objectives of the #COP 21 Paris agreement and the EU bioeconomy strategy,”​ said Pekka Pesonen, Copa & Cogeca secretary.

Last month, saw the UK’s national farmers’ union, the NFU, back a report​ that it said confronted the “misconceptions around food security impacts of biofuels.”

The report was produced by the International Food Policy Research Unit (IFPRI).

The NFU argues that biofuel and bioenergy production deliver food security, investment and environmental benefits.  

This week also sees FEFAC launch the third public consultation​ in relation to the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) pilot for feed.

PEF is a multi-criteria measurement of the environmental performance of any kind of product throughout its life cycle. The Feed PEF Pilot prescribes the specific product category methodological requirements (PEFCR) for the production of feed for farmed animals, said the trade group.

In the development of the Feed PEFCR, it said the recommendations from the Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance (LEAP​) Partnership were taken into account.

FEFAC said comments are welcome on the draft Feed PEFCR up until 9 September 2016.

Environmental studies and LCAs have shown feed production is a significant contributor to the environmental footprint of animal products and therefore an important element to take into account when considering mitigation options. Without a sound analysis of the impacts of animal feed, it is nearly impossible to establish the PEF of animal products such a meat, eggs, dairy products and fish, stressed FEFAC.

It said these kind of initiatives show the EU feed sector is actively contributing to emission mitigation strategies at farm level that help with tackling climate change.

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