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Biofuels: a threat to food security and landrights


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Topic: Biofuels


Policy recommendations

  • The European Union must  abandon the 10% target for renewable energy incorporation in transport as this leads to land grabbing in developing countries to increase the production of biofuels, to the detriment of poverty eradication and food security
  • The European Union must address land grabbing by expanding the current sustainability criteria to include social standards, by for one recognising land rights
  • These criteria must be legally binding to guarantee that the rural populations who live off marginal lands and forests are not hurt by expanding agricultural production;
  • The European Union must consider the effects of Indirect Land Use Change in the Renewable Energy Directive. The directive must not undermine the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and global food security;
  • The monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the RED must take specific note of the impact of EU biofuels targets on food security and other development issues.


Intensive pressure on developing countries to produce bio-fuels
João Ferreira (GUE/NGL) complemented the draft opinion on EU’s biodiversity strategy of the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) with his amendment on biodiversity threats in developing countries. He points out that developing countries are increasingly under pressure to produce bio-fuels. - 08-03-2016

MEP’s amend draft opinion on a new climate agreement in Paris
The United Nations Climate Change Conference will take place in December 2015. During this summit the world leaders will negotiate on a new, legally binding, universal agreement on climate. Climate change is an important and pressing matter as it is endangering the livelihoods of vulnerable people all over the world. - 22-09-2015

EU biofuels policy hampers sustainable development
MEP Neena Gill (S&D) has asked a question on the impact of the current EU biofuels on sustainable development. - 20-05-2015

Small step forward taken with reform of EU biofuels legislation
Land grabbing, increased food prices and deforestation; these phenomenon’s can be attributed to the existing EU biofuels policy, which introduced a biofuels blending obligation back in 2009. This was set out in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the Fuel Quality Directive, aiming to relieve the European Union’s dependency on fossil fuels and tackle the CO2 emission. This blending obligation however has a huge impact on developing countries. The EU has now taken its first step in addressing this problem. - 04-05-2015

MEP’s propose to change the nature of EU food aid
The occasion for the question is the position farmers’ organisation from countries in West-Africa have taken, stating that aid should not take the form of food, but rather the purchase of local African produce. MEP’s João Ferreira (GUE/NGL) and Lidia Senra Rodríguez (GUE/NGL) ask if the Commission has studied this proposal of the farmers’ organisation. - 22-04-2015

MEP Tomas Tomáš Zdechovský asks question about malnutrition and food wastage
Zdechovský (EPP) draws attention to the 1.3 billion tonnes of food thrown away each year, enough to feed the 868 million people who are suffering from food scarcity four times over. Currently, we use land to grow crops as animal feed or for biofuels, instead of farming to feed those who have no access to basic ingredients, Zdechovský states. - 13-04-2015

MEP’s amend Council’s position on the biofuels reform – vote in ENVI committee on the 24th of February
Two directives of the Commission concerning biofuels are currently under reform: the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) and Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC). The Parliament is preparing for the second reading. On the 18th of December the rapporteur of the leading parliamentary committee ENVI, Nils Torvalds (ALDE) published a "draft recommendation for second reading of the Parliament." Several MEP’s tabled amendments about Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC) in third countries and social sustainability criteria. - 17-02-2015

MEP’s ask questions about palm oil production – 2nd reading on EU biofuels policy coming up!
Giulia Moi (EFD), Marco Valli (EFD) and Laura Agea (EFD) have drawn attention to the consequences of deforestation as the result of palm oil production. They call for the Commission to take action to protect endangered species and combat land grabbing, as palm oil production has led to the displacement of local and indigenous communities in Asia and Africa. The countries Indonesia and Malaysia are mentioned because tropical rainforests are rapidly disappearing there, undermining biodiversity and increasing carbon emission. Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil but can also be used for biofuels, accounting for the increased demand in palm oil.   - 29-01-2015

MEP Andreas Mölzer asks question about ending biofuels subsidies
MEP Mölzer (NI) has asked a question about the EU biofuels policy. The immediate cause was a research by the Heinrich Böll Foundation that concluded biofuels subsidies have very little benefit for the climate, while it has devastating impacts on food prices. - 17-02-2014

EU Ministers vote on biofuels: Crime Against Humanity!?
Thursday the 12th of December the Energy Ministers of the European Member States voted on the biofuel policy of the European Union. Under the Lithuanian Presidency the proposed cap of 5% on food-based biofuels of the European Commission rose to 7% in the proposal in the Council of Ministers. Rising the cap of food-based biofuels can be considered as a crime against humanity, because of the devastating effects it has on especially people in developing countries. With this Thursdays vote, the 7% cap was rejected, but still insecurity exist about the new biofuel policy of the EU. - 17-12-2013

EU Ministers vote on biofuels: crime against humanity?!
This Thursday the 12th of December the Energy Ministers of the European Member States will vote in Brussels on the biofuel policy of the European Union. Under the Lithuanian Presidency the proposed cap of 5% on food-based-biofuels of the European Commission rose to 7% in the proposal in the Council of Ministers. Rising the cap of food-based biofuels can be considered as a crime against humanity, because of the devastating effects it has on especially people in developing countries. - 09-12-2013

MEPs draw attention to land-grabbing as a consequence of European Union biofuel and trade policies
Judith Sargentini, Eva Joly and Catherine Grèze (Greens/EFA) have amended the draft report of Nirj Deva (ECR) on property rights, property ownership and wealth creation in eradicating poverty and fostering sustainable development in developing countries. In these amendments the MEPs draw attention to the negative effects of the current biofuel policy of the EU. - 02-12-2013

MEP Wils highlights consequences of biofuel policy on developing countries
MEP Wils writes Draft Opinion on the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC). In this draft opinion Wils highlights the tension between biofuel strategy of the European Commission and the external dimension of this policy on developing countries. - 16-10-2013

MEPs amend biofuel policy and pay attention to effects on developmental countries
Not only MEPs from the ENVI Committee are concerned about the incoherence of the current biofuel policy. Also MEPs from the Committee on Research, Industry & Technology and MEPs of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development address the incoherencies of biofuel policy in their amendments. - 25-09-2013

MEPs from ENVI Committee amend biofuel policy in order to make it more coherent
Several MEPs in the ENVI Committee share concerns regarding the impact biofuel policy has on developing countries. With their amendments on the Fuel Quality and Renewable Energy Directive they try to change the incoherency of EU biofuel policy regarding development. - 25-09-2013

MEPs amend draft opinion to make biofuel policy more coherent
Biofuels policy of the European Union is a heated topic, especially from a PCD point of view. This is also acknowledged by the amendments drafted by different MEPs of the Committee on Development on the fuel quality and renewable energy directive. The amendments come from all of the political spectrum. - 24-09-2013

Green MEPs warn for effects of Bioeconomy Europe
Isabella Lövin, Eva Joly, Catherine Grèze (Greens/EFA), amended the draft opinion of the Committee on Development on the Commissions Strategy on a Bioeconomy for Europe. In this amendment the MEPs warn for the effects a growing demand of biomass have on developing countries, as a result of the new strategy of the Commission. - 24-09-2013

MEP Kaczmarek's draft opinion addresses negative impacts biofuel policy
In the draft opinion proposed by rapporteur Filip Kaczmarek (EPP) of the Committee on Development towards the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the effects of biofuel policy on developmental countries are discussed. - 24-09-2013

EU Biofuels Policy decision delayed by European Parliament
Last Wednesday the European Parliament voted on the Fuel Quality and Renewable Energy Directive. Current EU biofuel policy has huge consequences for developing countries, because it causes rising food prices, boosts land grabbing activities and contributes to the emission of greenhouse gasses. - 16-09-2013

S&D MEPs amend draft opinion biofuel policy
Vincenzo Lovine, Francesco De Angelis & Andrea Cozzolino (S&D), have amended the draft opinion by Rikka Pakarinen (ALDE) of the Committee on Regional Development on the fuel quality directive (98/70/EC) and the renewable energy directive (2009/28/EC). In their amendment they address the impact that biofuel policy has on communities in developing countries. - 10-09-2013

Biofuels: The final vote!
This Wednesday (the 11th of September) the Members of the European Parliament will vote for a new legislative proposal regarding the EU’s biofuel policy. Biofuels have been under a heated debate for years, when finally last year the Commission came with a new proposal to lower the target for the use of Biofuels in the transport sector. The European Parliament is due to give its opinion this week with the final vote on the report which was prepared by the committee on the Environment (ENVI) in the European Parliament. The Foundation Max van der Stoel hopes the MEPs will vote in favour of this report, which would make way for a more coherent EU policy on Biofuels. - 09-09-2013

On the 19th of March, our impact study Fuelling Progress or Poverty? The EU and Biofuels in Tanzania was launched in Brussels. Since then, biofuels and the problems associated have been on the agenda within different fora. - 06-06-2013

Biofuels, a matter of sustainability!
Biofuels, a matter of sustainability! On March 19th our 3rd impact study; Fueling Progress or Poverty? The EU and Biofuels in Tanzania was launched in Brussels. The meeting was opened by the Director of our foundation Arjen Berkvens who shortly explained the purpose of our impact studies, namely to fuel the debates here in Europe by giving a voice to the people subject to impacts of EU policy. MEP Judith Merkies who hosted the event clarified the current context of the EUs biofuels policy concerning the proposed cap on the use of food based biofuels to 5 percent towards the EUs 10 percent target for renewable energy sources in the transport sector. The proposed cap is currently being debated within the European Parliament and it was one of the agenda points of the Environment council which met in Brussels on the 21st of March. - 25-03-2013

British Report contradicts the EUs stance on biofuel, says MEP Melo
A British study shows that the use of biofuel leads to a reduction in agricultural production for human consumption, an escalation in food prices and pollution. MEP Nuno Melo (EPP) wants to know if the Commission is aware of this report. - 21-03-2013

Launch of Impact Study Tanzania, 19th March
Fuelling Progress or Poverty? The EU and Biofuels in Tanzania: Policy Coherence for Development in practice - 21-02-2013

MEP Rossi addresses land grabbing in his question to the Commission
MEP Oreste Rossi (EFD) poses a question to the Commission in which he addresses the negative aspects of land grab. He asks if the Commission is aware of the fact that "30% of projects funded by the World Bank itself have brought about the forced resettlement of indigenous populations?" and if the Commission believes "that it is appropriate to evaluate and carefully assess the contractual and legal aspects underlying 'land grabbing' and, if necessary, to put measures in place which allow greater respect of indigenous peoples and the economy of underdeveloped countries?" - 05-02-2013

MEP Jadot writes draft opinion on renewable energy
MEP Yannick Jadot (Greens/EFA) is the rapporteur of the opinion of the INTA committee on "current challenges and opportunities for renewable energy in the European internal energy market". - 22-01-2013

MEP Danellis calls for sustainable renewable energy
In the draft opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, rapporteur Spyros Danellis (S&D) notes the importance of renewable energy for Europe's energy supply and the EU's climate change strategy. His draft opinion is a reaction to the draft report of the ITRE committee, "on current challenges and opportunities for renewable energy on the European internal energy market." - 15-01-2013

MEP Hudghton asks question on biofuels and food production
MEP Ian Hudghton (Greens/EFA) points to a disadvantage of 'first-generation' biofuels, namely that it requires more land than later generations of biofuels will need. - 20-11-2012

MEP Feio asks question on biofuels and food production
MEP Feio (EPP) addresses his question to the Commission and asks them on more information on the rise of food prices and its relation with the production on biofuels. He also asks if there are mechanisms to ensure that foodstuff production is used for the consumption of food. - 20-11-2012

MEP Saryusz-Wolski writes draft opinion on Energy Roadmap 2050
MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (EPP) has drafted the opinion of the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Energy Roadmap. In his opinion he included concerns about the external effects of this policy on developing countries. - 20-11-2012

MEP Bütikofer includes the issue of land grab in the Horn of Africa Strategy
In his amendment to the draft report on the EU strategy for the Horn of Africa, MEP Bütikofer (Greens/EFA) asks attention for the issue of land grab and brings this in relation with food security and policy coherence. - 25-10-2012

Reul and Saryusz-Wolski link Energy policy to PCD
Herbert Reul and Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (EPP) draw attention to policy coherence in their amendment to the report on the Energy roadmap 2050. - 25-10-2012

MEP Neuser makes important amendments to report on the Energy Roadmap 2050
MEP Neuser (S&D) contributes to fair politics in his amendments to the draft report of the AFET committee on the Energy Roadmap 2050. In his first amendment, Neuser asks to consider the overriding development objectives when dealing with developing countries when it comes to external energy supplies. Furthermore, he makes note of the negative aspects of first generation biofuels. He "draws attention to the complex relationship between energy, food supply and security developments, particularly with regard to unsustainable first generation biofuels which may have a negative social and environmental impact on developing countries." Therefore, he suggests to promote the development sustainable biofuels from agricultural waste products or algae. Biofuels is a hot topic now. Also Fair Politics has asked attention for the negative sides of biofuels when it comes to food security and social sustainability. We are happy that Neuser has addressed these issues as well and therefore we give him 1 point. - 25-10-2012

Predatory land deals questioned by MEP Matias
Following a recent report from Oxfam on 'Land and power: The growing scandal surrounding the new wave of investment in land', MEP Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL) has made inquiries to the Commissions actions to fight land grabbing. - 11-01-2012

EUs policy on biofuels questioned by MEPs
On behalf of the DEVE committee, Michèle Striffler (EPP) posed a question to the Commission on the EU biomass policy and its impact on development. Referring to the targets for renewable energy that the EU has set to have by 2020 a 20% share of energy from renewable sources in the EU final consumption of energy and a 10 % share of energy from renewable sources in each Member States transport energy consumption, she expresses her concerns on the possible negative environmental impacts of these targets, like deforestation. She therefore asks the Commissions what measures will be taken to ensure sustainable biomass production, to protect forests and to prevent negative climate, environmental and social impacts from the use and production of biomass for energy. - 28-11-2011

MEP Meyer calls subsidies and incentives for biofuels into question
In 2009, the European Parliament and Council adopted a renewable energy directive (RED). This directive states that 10% of transport fuel used in the EU should come from biofuels by 2020, which comes down to a doubling of the current biofuels consumption. By setting this target, the EU encourages the growing of crops for conversion to biofuels. Consequently, this means there is less land to grow crops for human consumption, leading to a reduction in food production. This in turn causes a rise of food prices as well as a rise of the number of people going hungry. - 10-10-2011

MEP Watson questions sustainability of Renewable Energy Directive
Since 2009 the EU has a Renewable Energy Directive (shortly RED) in which is stated that in 2020 20% of all energy should come from renewable energy sources, and 10% of transport energy should be renewable. This target is leading to an increase of biofuel plantation, of which many are in developing countries. Currently, a strong debate is going on in which it is questioned if renewable energy sources like biofuels are indeed sustainable. - 12-05-2011

Fox questions Commission on proper implementation of RED
The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) requires that biofuels deliver substatial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and should not come from vulnerable araes like forests, wetlands or natural protected areas. By 2020 10% of fuels used should be derived from sustainable biofuels. - 26-04-2011

MEP Marisa Matias questions biofuels
Biofuels are on the agenda of many MEPs, luckily, because many questions are to be asked on the effects for developing countries. As one of the largest economies, the EU plays a key role in stimulating the use of alternatives to fossil fuel.  Biofuels were thought to combat the climate change due to CO2 reduction. The production of biofuels are thus highly subsidized and benefit from tax exemption. Fair Politics questions the coherence between the Renewables Directive promoting biofuel production on one hand and the development objectives by the EU on the other hand. - 24-02-2011

MEP Tarabella: effect EUs biofuel policy devastating
The EU has set a target on transport energy supply that by 2020 10% must come from renewable sources, mostly biofuels. This target has recently been attacked by many MEPs. The cause was the report by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) which showed that biofuels will increase CO2 emissions instead of reducing them. In a written question MEP Marc Tarabella (S&D) added another report to the debate. The Tricontinental Centre (CETRI) was commissioned by the Belgium government to investigate biofuels. It concludes that the target will cause both social and evirnomental disasters in Soutern countries. Tarabella wonders how these effects could be prevented and asks the Commission to give a respons to CETRIs conclusions. - 24-01-2011

Biofuels under attack from MEPs
A decade ago, biofuels were seen as the answer to scarce and polluting fossil fuel sources. The European Union (EU) jumped on board of this idea, aiming at a 10% share of renewable energies in transport fuels by 2020. Biofuels were to provide at least half of the share, and therefore the EU provided subsidises to increase production. However it soon became clear that the benefits of biofuels were smaller than the damage it was causing. In general, biofuels are not sustainable since they do not produce less CO2 than fossil fuels. In November 2010 the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) published a report about this, called Anticipated Indirect Land Use Change Associated with Expanded Use of Biofuels and Bioliquids in the EU An Analysis of the National Renewable Energy Action Plans. - 12-01-2011

MEP concerned about biofuels and land grabbing
MEP Georgios Papastamkos (EPP) asked questions to the Commission about the future of the European policy on biofuels. Member states have indicated that there is a general reluctance to give strong backing to the use of biofuels. Also it is causing side effects in Africa like land grabbing issues. Food security is one of the Commissions priorities on Policy Coherence for Development (PCD), and this is being threatened in developing countries by foreign companies which are buying land to produce biofuels. European companies are the second largest investors in biofuels in Africa and European policies are encouraging this trend. Many local farmers are switching to these cashcrops as well. Article 208 of the Lisbon treaty states that the goal of development policy of the European Union is to reduce poverty world wide. Furthermore the EU has committed itself to the Millennium Development Goals. Switching from crops for human consumption to biofuels is not the way to end hunger. The EU should stop subsidizing biofuels on the African continent. - 22-09-2010

Bio-fuels vs. Food: Concerns by MEP Tremopoulos
Member of European Parliament (MEP) Michail Tremopoulos is concerned about the predicted steep increase in food prices. This increase, predicted in the UN FAO report, will be due to the increase in oil prices pushing up the costs of imports and due to the growing demand for bio-fuels. Bio-fuels have been proven to be a more sustainable source of energy, but does use a lot of land and water. Bio-fuel production replaces food production in developing countries and is not more environmentally sustainable. - 31-05-2010

MEP Christensen concerned about Biofuels
Biofuels and Agrifuels are a relatively climate friendly source of energy. Therefore the EU has set targets for the use of biofuels in the transport sector. The problem with these new fuels is that they are not environmentally or socially sustainable due to the large amounts of water and land that needs to be rebuilt for the production. Ole Christensen (S&D) asks both the EU and the ACP Councils how they will ensure that there will be no displacement effect in the form of an increase in unsustainable cultivation of natural areas. - 27-04-2010

MEP Belet warns Commission for Jatropha oil
MEP Ivo Belet (PPE) questions the sustainability of Jatropha oil that was said to be the biofuel of the future. Considering the EU plans striving for 10% use of renewable energy sources (including biofuels) in their transport sector in 2020 and the uncertainty of the effects and sustainability of these, it is important to raise awareness and knowledge on this issue. - 25-11-2009

Biofuels and the current food crisis
 07 October 2008 -

Written question MEP Karim: biofuels and developing countries
08 April 2008 -

MEP Corbey emphasizes policy incoherencies in biofuels and fisheries policy
23 April 2008 -

Written question MEP Karim : The influence of biofuels policy on soaring food prices
26 June 2008 -

Debate on biofuels offers food for thought
23 April 2008 -

Written question MEP Muscardini: Prices of agricultural products and biofuels
22 August 2008 -

Written question MEP Martin: Biofuels
20 February 2008 -