Farming organisations weighed in heavily yesterday against a new European Commission proposal that would initially reduce the cropping area devoted to growing biofuels.
Copa-Cogeca, the European-wide farm co-operative and union movement, described the move as totally unacceptable and said it threatened feed supplies for animals, employment and green growth in rural areas right across the European Union.
In the UK, Andrew Watts, the National Farmers Union’s combinable crops chairman, said the proposals failed to take into account how the biofuels industry in this country was increasing security by producing both food and fuel.
He described the proposals, which will go before the European Parliament for discussion, as “ill conceived” as they threatened the UK’s renewable energy target of 15 per cent by 2020.
“Increasing our reliance of fossil fuels and imported protein for animal feed is a major step backwards.” He added that the EU already imported 20 million tonnes of animal feed annually and animal feed costs had rocketed in the past year.
For Copa-Cogeca, Pekka Pesonen warned that the current rapeseed area in the EU of 6.7 million hectares could fall to 2 million hectares or less as a result of the proposal.
He also pointed out the European biofuels industry investments amounted to €14 billion (£11.4bn) and the industry provided jobs to 100,000 people.
However, defending the proposals, the commission claimed that they would stimulate the development of alternative, so-called second-generation biofuels from non-food feedstock, such as waste or straw.
These emit substantially less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and would not directly interfere with global food production.
Commissioner for climate action Connie Hedegaard said: “For biofuels to help us combat climate change, we must use truly sustainable biofuels.
“We must invest in biofuels that achieve real emission cuts and do not compete with food.
“We are, of course, not closing down first generation biofuels, but we are sending a clear signal that future increases in biofuels must come from advanced biofuels. Everything else will be unsustainable.”