Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, has welcomed today's vote in the European Parliament to tackle rising food prices and carbon emissions from the impact of biofuels which compete directly with food and animal feed.
In an extraordinarily tight series of votes, the full plenary session voted to amend the Fuel Quality and Renewable Energy Directives by 356 votes to 327, primarily by placing a cap on the contribution of crop-based biofuels towards the 2020 target requiring 10% of transport fuels to come from renewable sources. Only 6% of transport fuels will be able to be sourced from cereals, sugars, starch rich crops and oil crops, all of which compete with food consumption either directly or indirectly through animal feed.
The Parliament also voted for a new target by 2020 that 2.5% of transport fuels should come from so-called "advanced biofuels", including straw, animal manure, mixed municipal waste, algae and bacteria - emerging fuel technologies which do not compete with food uses; other forms of advanced biofuel, such as cooking oil and animal fats, will count double towards the 10% target to encourage the growth of and investment in these industries, where Scottish companies have an established advantage.
The legislative reform comes after growing scientific and anecdotal evidence that the competition between food and fuel uses for crops leads to rising food prices and increased global hunger: one survey by the Institute for European Environmental Policy showed price rises of 13% for wheat and 21% for sugar cane, and biofuels effects on food prices has been condemned by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
"Scots farmers produce food, not fuel. We rightly have a world class reputation for quality produce, and at a time of rising food prices globally it is plain wrong headed to encourage the world’s farmers to feed our cars instead of our people and animals.
“Previous EU biofuel promotion policy went the wrong way, and it's right that we learn from experience and correct mistaken policies. This does not mean we're abandoning biofuels altogether - we have companies and research institutes in Scotland doing great stuff to extract energy for fuel from waste products, and the double counting and target for advanced biofuels should provide important incentives for the development of this sector.
“But we have to prioritise food consumption over fuel for cars, and the cap on crop-based biofuels should go a long way to achieving this. We've also taken measures to account for land use change impacts of biofuel crops, which should steer development away from the biofuels with the worst climate impact.
“It's been a good day's work. We had a lot of opposition from right wing members of this chamber who wanted to maintain the status quo, so today's decision really does show that every vote counts."
The legislative text as voted for by Parliament will now be taken forward to negotiations with the European Council.