Food Not Fuel: Why Biofuels Are a Risk to Food Security

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As global wheat prices soar, Europe burns the equivalent of 15 million loaves of bread every day to power our cars.

In the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global grain and vegetable oil prices reached record highs. The ongoing uncertainty caused by the war has kept prices high and is causing serious concern for food security across the world.

Despite the looming risk of food shortages that could push hundreds of millions of people into food poverty, Europe continues to turn 10,000 tonnes of wheat — the equivalent of 15 million loaves of bread (750gr) — into ethanol for use in cars.

Reducing the share of wheat in EU’s biofuels by less than a third would compensate for failing supplies from Ukraine, shielding EU livestock farmers as well as consumers from supply shortages. Reducing the use of wheat in EU biofuels to zero would compensate for over 20% of the total wheat exports of Ukraine and support food security in other countries depending on Ukrainian wheat supplies.

While some countries struggle to secure sufficient food supplies for their people, the biofuels industry is stepping up its lobbying effort to even increase the use of food crops in biofuels. The land demand for this endeavour will be immense. Europe’s biofuels consumption already requires an area equivalent to 5% of its total farm land. This would need to be doubled to replace only 7% the EU’s imports of oil, gasoline and diesel from Russia with biofuels grown in Europe. If all these imports should be replaced with domestic biofuels, this would result in some 80% of all farmland being dedicated to powering our cars and trucks. The options to rely more on waste & residue based biofuels are very limited and would make Europe dependent on imports.

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Originally published on Transport & Environment.

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