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Biofuels policy requires focus on sustainability, says CIAA

By Laura Crowley , 27-Mar-2008

Proposed directives for promoting the use of biofuels fail to tackle concerns within the food industry on the possible impact on food and feed supply, according to the CIAA.

Biofuels are intended to be a green alternative as an energy source, derived entirely from renewable supplies. Green policies have pushed for an increase in biofuel production with the intent of achieving a 20 per cent reduction of Europe's CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The EU policy says that 10 per cent of transport fuel should come from biofuels by that time.


In response to the proposals, the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) is calling for provisions to ensure sustainability. It said: "While the proposed directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources introduced a number of improvements compared to earlier drafts…these elements are far from sufficient to address core food and drink industry concerns as regards the potential impact the policy will have on the availability of raw materials for food and feed production."


Impact assessment Increasing demand for biofuels has proved controversial as it has been blamed in part for the increase in food prices in the last 18 months and having a damaging effect on the environment. Moreover, it has been linked to food shortages by introducing competition for corn and other starch sources that are also required for food.


The CIAA criticised the proposals for addressing the legal way to ensure the 10 per cent target is achieved, instead of being based on an overall assessment of the policy options available to reach the objectives of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and promoting secure energy supplies. The CIAA requests a full impact assessment be commissioned to consider the availability of second-generation biofuels. These use made from non-food feedstocks, such as waste from agriculture and forestry.


It also asks for the assessment to look at worldwide developments in biofuels to ensure the availability of raw material imports and the impact on other sectors affected by the policy. Second-generation biofuels


While the CIAA supports the 10 per cent biofuel target, it said this will largely be dependent on the types of biofuels used and consistency must be ensured throughout EU legislations. Furthermore, it said this target should be introduced in a cost effective way and be subject to production being sustainable and second generation biofuels becoming commercially available.


This is in line with arguments put forward last month by EuropaBio, an association that represents Europe's bioindustries. It said the role played by biofuels in price hikes and food shortages has been overplayed, and more European investment is needed in second generation technology that does not compete with food sources. The CIAA calls for a formal review clause in the legislation for an assessment with regard to the availability of second-generation biofuels in 2015, to prevent market imbalances and disruptions of agricultural raw materials.


It added that a threshold should be established for action in case second generation biofuels are not commercially available and the sustainability scheme ineffective, at which point the target should be reviewed. Crisis prevention


Although the CIAA acknowledges efforts in directive proposals address some concerns regarding availability, with the Commission pledging to monitor the impact of biofuel development on commodity price changes and food security, it said the corrective action should be further specified.


"CIAA calls for mechanisms to prevent crisis situations on agricultural markets, such as serious market imbalances and supply shortage in agricultural raw materials. The Commission should work on concrete criteria to trigger such temporary action. In particular, the directive should offer Member States a mechanism for the temporary suspension of national biofuels targets to prevent crisis situations."

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