Article written

  • on 09.09.2013
  • at 12:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

MEP biofuels vote could feed millions more….or less 0

ActionAid has released new figures today revealing the potential impact of the European Parliament’s vote in Strasbourg this week on biofuels and a crucial cap to limit the incentivisation of the use of huge amounts of food as fuel at a time when almost a billion people are going hungry worldwide.

The analysis shows that the difference between voting for the Industry Committee proposal of 6.5% and keeping the original Commission proposal could feed 51.6 million people.

“At a time when one in nine are going hungry, we cannot afford to play with our food. Current EU biofuels policy incentivises putting food in cars and using millions of hectares of fertile land that we don’t have in Europe to produce energy. This is and has always been a ludicrous policy and MEPs can vote to change it this week” said Laura Sullivan, Head of European Advocacy at ActionAid International.

“MEPs must respect and tighten the Commission’s proposal to limit the use of food and land guzzling energy crops at 5% this week. Voting for the Industry Committee proposals means channelling food into cars that could feed 51 million people.  This is unacceptable.

MEPs going for elections next year need to leave behind a clear legacy on global social justice. Their chance comes on Wednesday when they can vote to start phasing out an industry that is fundamentally unsustainable. First generation biofuels require huge amounts of food and land and they are not the climate champions they were once thought to be. And all of this at a cost to the European taxpayer of 6.2 billion Euros each year. This just doesn’t add up. We trust that MEPs will see the light this week and vote for people and their right to food, not just profits and fuel” she added.

In October, the European Commission proposed a cap of 5% on the amount of food that can be used to meet the overall 10% target for renewable energy in transport by 2020. This proposal was welcomed by development and green NGOs as a first step in the right direction to control the promotion of the first generation biofuels industry. However recent wrangling in the European Parliament has seen some efforts to water down the Commission’s limitation, particularly by the industry committee (ITRE).

Meanwhile in the Council some countries are also putting industry first and hunger second. Ironically, France, which coordinated efforts to ‘feed the world’ during its EU presidency in 2009 and subsequently its G20 presidency in 2011 is now prepared to settle for a higher cap on biofuels that could fuel more hunger. In 2011, ten international organisations including the FAO, World Bank and WTO called on G20 leaders to end all subsidies and targets for biofuels globally given their impact on food price volatility. This call has been largely ignored by the G20 to date.

This week, the EU’s Joint Research Centre said that food prices are up to 50% higher due to EU biofuels mandates.


The analysis shows the number of people could have been fed with the amount of food used as biofuels at different levels of caps on land based biofuels. It demonstrates the caloric value which could feed X number of people and not that e.g. 2% higher mandate would make 68 million more people hungry. The model does not take actual land use into account, nor does it measure overall impacts on global food prices

We have assumed that:

  • 100% of all ethanol is from potential food sources
  • 84% of biodiesels are from potential food sources (as per the GAIN database. The non-food stuff is mainly cooking oil and animal fats)
  • Humans need 1,800 calories per day to survive (as per FAO estimates)
  • A litre of ethanol contains 5087 calories and a litre of biodiesel 7786 calories
  • Current EU consumption is 4.7
By ActionAid 

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