Talks on the European Union's draft Renewable Energy Directive should be postponed until after independent research into the effects of biofuels production, argues the confectionery and biscuit industry.
CAOBISCO, the European trade body for the biscuit and confectionery industry, claims that the 10 per cent mandatory target for the inclusion of biofuels in transport fuel by 2020 cannot be achieved in a sustainable way.
The warning came in the form of a statement from CAOBISCO incorporating the views of other European trade organisations in the confectionery, bakery, milling and related industries.
The EU policy of boosting biofuels production has "contributed considerably to the dramatic price increases in raw materials worldwide," which has been exacerbated by global demand for agricultural commodities and erratic weather, it said. First generation biofuels are made from vegetable oils, sugar cane, cereals and derivatives which are the "key raw materials" for the groups represent by CAOBISCO, the statement acknowledged.
The organisation highlighted research at the University of Bologna which concluded that the impact on prices following a sharp increase in the demand of agricultural commodities will reduce the competitiveness of the food industry and require consumers to pay for higher production costs. Other EU scientific bodies and international organisations have share similar concerns about the biofuel target, claims the statement.
Claude Turmes, European Parliament Rapporteur on the Renewable Energy Directive said in a recent report that there is overwhelming evidence to support dropping the biofuels target because it cannot be achieved in a sustainable way.
If talks on the draft directive continue, mandates should be included that allow the Commission to intervene in biofuels feedstock (grains/oilseeds) markets in order to alleviate crisises. The groups also called on the EU to boost research and development of second-generation biofuels and to promote other sources of renewable energy.
Second generation biofuels are made from non-food feedstocks, such as waste from agriculture and forestry.
Group's own impact assessment
An impact assessment published in February by CAOBISCO confirmed that EU land would be unable to cope with the additional demand that the 10 per cent biofuels target would trigger. The EU-27 would become a net-importer of grains, swinging from 10 million tonnes of exports up to 32 million tonnes of imports, claimed the research. Also, up to 50 per cent of the main vegetable oils will be imported in 2020, it continued.
The report concluded that total available land in the EU "can clearly not cope with the additional demand for bio-fuels", with about a quarter of total arable land dedicated to energy crops. Since the EU is not able to produce all the feedstock to meet the biofuels demand, imports would be inevitable, putting pressure on arable land in other regions including rainforests, and creating additional CO2 emissions, shortages of water and food shortages.
The EU Confederation of the Food and Drink industries has similar concerns. In March this year it said the food and drink industry had "core concerns" about the "potential impact the policy will have on the availability of raw materials for food and feed production."