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Verheugen: Food before biofuels

Latest update : 2008-05-17

Biofuels must not deprive the world's poor of food, a senior European official said, urging a greater focus on more sustainable second-generation biofuels.

Guenter Verheugen, a vice president of the European Commission, was speaking against a background of growing doubts about whether the European Union should continue a policy of elevating biofuels to an environmental priority.

"It makes no sense to make car fuel from plants that ought to provide human and animal food," said Verheugen in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, extracts of which were made available Saturday.

The accent should be instead on research into second-generation biofuels,"for example technology using hydrogen," added Verheugen, who is the EU commissioner responsible for enterprise and industry.

The biofuel industry fears the controversy could inhibit research into second-generation biofuels which are environmentally more friendly since they would be made from non-edible agricultural waste such as straw.

"What matters to the commission is sustainable development," Verheugen said. "It will not work if production of basic foodstaffs is hindered or tropical forest is cut down" for biofuels.

The 27-nation European Union wants biofuels to make up 10 percent of all EU vehicle fuel by 2020, but the target has come under fire in the face of soaring global food prices that have hit poor countries particularly hard.

Biofuel development is part of a wider package to reduced EU greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Date created : 2008-05-17