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опубликовано: 11.09.2013

The European Parliament is expected to back proposals to limit the amount of food crops used to produce biofuel.

There is widespread concern that food-based biofuels displace food production - unlike biofuels derived from agricultural waste, sewage or seaweed.

The EU wants 10% of transport fuel to be comprised of biofuel by 2020, as part of the effort to cut reliance on fossil fuels.

Of that 10%, MEPs say, no more than 5.5% should be derived from food crops.

MEPs will vote on Wednesday on a legislative report by Corinne Lepage, a French liberal MEP. It is the parliament's contribution to the new EU policy on biofuels announced by the European Commission last October.

The EU is negotiating changes to the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive and the 1998 Fuel Quality Directive.

Before becoming law the proposals still have to be agreed with the 28 member states' governments, represented in the EU Council.

Much negotiation still lies ahead, amid intense lobbying by biofuel industry groups and environmentalists.
Land use dispute

The MEPs' target is slightly higher than the 5% cap proposed by the Commission - and there has been fierce argument among MEPs about the level at which to set the cap.

Ms Lepage's report argues that public subsidies for food-based biofuels in the EU - 10bn euros (£8.4bn; $13bn) annually - encourage cultivation of them on land that could otherwise be used for food production.

According to the environmental group Greenpeace, the US already uses 40% of its corn for ethanol and in the EU more than 60% of rapeseed is used for biofuels.

Some studies suggest that continuing with the current level of EU incentives for food-based biofuels would actually cancel out the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions achieved by switching to biofuels.

Clearing land to plant food for biofuel releases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) through ploughing and can involve deforestation, which reduces the "carbon sinks" - the trees that absorb CO2.

The EU's Joint Research Centre has calculated that scrapping the current biofuel incentives could lower the price of vegetable oil in the EU by 48% by 2020.

Ms Lepage's report also warns of the social impact of such biofuel cultivation - known as "indirect land use change (ILUC)".

"The indirect land use change effects are not only environmental but also social, and are placing additional pressure on land use, particularly in developing countries, which is having a negative impact on the food security of local people, in particular women," her report says.

The European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE) has rejected the suggestion that biofuel crops are putting too much pressure on food production. It also argues that the impact of biofuels on food prices has been greatly exaggerated.

BBC News