Call to remove food crops from European biofuels

Source: By Aisling O'Brien, Agriland • Posted: Sunday, March 27, 2022

Removing wheat from the production of biofuels in Europe would offset over 20% of the collapsed Ukrainian supplies, according to a campaign group.

A study by Transport and Environment (T&E) has shown that 10,000 tonnes of wheat – the equivalent of 15 million loaves of bread – is turned into ethanol for European cars on a daily basis.

T&E is among a group of over 20 organisations that have written to national governments on the issue.

“Every year we burn millions of tonnes of wheat and other vital grains to power our cars. This is unacceptable in the face of a global food crisis.

“Governments must urgently stop the burning of food crops in cars to reduce pressure on critical supplies,” Maik Marahrens, biofuels manager at T&E, said.

Major concerns have been raised about food security and supply chains in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Both countries provide about a quarter of the globally traded wheat and barley, 15% of corn and over 60% of sunflower oil.

The Brussels-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) labelled the biofuels lobby’s push for increased production as ‘immoral’ in a time of “acute global food shortages”.

T&E said that even if Europe doubled the amount of farmland dedicated to biofuels, it would replace just 7% of EU imports of oil from Russia.

“To replace all Russian oil imports with home-grown biofuels would need at least two-thirds of the bloc’s farmland for crops,” it explained.

“The biofuels industry is stepping up its lobbying efforts to push for more grains like wheat and corn to replace Russian oil.

“In doing so it is cynically taking advantage of people’s concerns over fuel prices, putting profit over food security. This is immoral while millions of people around the world cannot afford even a loaf of bread,” Marahrens concluded.

T&E cited countries such as Egypt, which imports over 60% of its wheat, mainly from Russia and Ukraine. “These additional supplies to the market would be life saving,” the NGO explained.