EU defends biofuels policy amid fears over food prices

May 7th, 2008 - 10:35 pm ICT by admin  

Brussels, May 7 (DPA) The surge in world food prices comes from causes such as rising demand in China and India, bad harvests and rising fuel prices, not European Union’s (EU) biofuel policies, an officials from the 27-nations bloc insisted Wednesday. The EU’s current production of fuels made from plants is so small that it has had no significant impact on food prices, spokesmen for the European Commission, the EU executive, said.

Moreover, the EU’s long-term goal of meeting 10 percent of its fuel needs from plant-based sources by 2020 is specifically tailored to accept only those sources which do not damage the environment or social conditions, they said.

“If we don’t get these good, sustainable biofuels, which produce a minimum of 35 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) than fossil fuel, we’ll still be using non-sustainable petrol, which doesn’t save any CO2 at all,” the commission’s energy spokesman pointed out.

In March 2007 the EU’s member states agreed the bloc’s biofuels target as part of a package of measures aimed at reducing Europe’s reliance on energy imports and fighting global warming.

But the biofuels target quickly became mired in controversy as environmental campaigners said it could push up food prices as farmers started producing fuel crops instead of food crops.

Since then, world food prices have indeed soared, sparking debate and discussion in many international bodies.

On Wednesday, the 27 members of the commission - one from each EU member state - held a so-called “orientation debate” to discuss how Europe should react to the problem.

They agreed that the crisis was caused by a large number of factors, such as growing demand in emerging economies such as China and India, rising energy prices, bad harvests, the fall of the dollar and a lack of a coordinated global response, spokesmen said.

While the debate was not intended to decide on practical reactions, EU officials point out that the commission is set to propose a number of changes to the bloc’s common agricultural policy May 20.

The changes should include the phasing-out of EU quotas for the production of goods such as milk and starch, the scrapping of a system whereby farmers have to keep 10 percent of their land fallow to avoid over-production, and the end of EU-imposed limits on what farmers are allowed to produce if they want to receive subsidies.

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