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Biofuel Food Crisis – Europe Burns 15 Million Loaves of Bread Every Day

Originally published on Transport & Environment.

Europe turns 10,000 tonnes of wheat — the equivalent of 15 million loaves of bread [1] — every day into ethanol for use in cars, a new study shows. Transport & Environment, who carried out the study, calls for a halt to the burning of wheat and other food crops in biofuels and has labelled the biofuels lobby’s push for increased production as “immoral” in a time of acute global food shortages.

Maik Marahrens, biofuels manager at T&E, said: “Every year we burn millions of tons 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.”

Removing wheat from European biofuels would offset more than 20% of the collapsed Ukrainian wheat supplies to the global market, according to the study. In countries like Egypt, which imports over 60% of its wheat, mainly from Russia and Ukraine, these additional supplies to the market would be life saving.

Today, a group of leading European NGOs, including T&E, has called on governments to immediately halt the use of food crops for fuel. Ensuring stable energy supplies to people and the economy must not come at the expense of food security or lead food price inflation to spiral out of control, says the group.

There are growing calls, particularly among Europe’s biofuels lobby (ePure and European Biodiesel Board), for Russian oil to be replaced with biofuels made from crops like wheat, corn, barley, sunflower, rapeseed and other vegetable oils. This is despite soaring food prices in the wake of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which has decimated the breadbasket of Europe. Ukraine and Russia together provide about a quarter of the globally traded wheat and barley, 15% of corn and over 60% of sunflower oil.

Even if Europe were to double the amount of farmland it dedicates to biofuels — equivalent to at least 10% of the EU’s farmland for crops — this would replace just 7% of the EU’s 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.

Maik Marahrens, concluded: “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.”

List of signatories so far to letter sent to national governments:

Welthaus Graz
Transport & Environment
Circular Economy
The Corner House
Sustain The alliance for better food and farming
Transport Action Network
Feedback Global
UK Youth Climate Coalition
Wen (Women’s Environmental Network)
Faith for the Climate
Campaign against Climate Change

[1] Based on a typical 750 gram loaf.

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