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Biofuels hardly competed with food production: Column

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‘The report published by Biomass Research provided a much less extreme image of reality on Food vs Fuel and iLUC than many NGO will make us believe’

(in Dutch: Het rapport van Biomass Research [..] geeft een veel genuanceerder beeld van de werkelijkheid over Food-or-Fuel en ILUC dan NGO’s ons willen doen geloven).

Press release
Press release
Biofuels compete little with food production – so far

From our press release
WAGENINGEN, The Netherlands – A week after the environmental committee of the European Parliament (EP) capped biofuel production from food crops to a maximum of 5.5% because of its effect on food security, a new study reveals food production is not suffering much from the use of corn, wheat or palm oil in biofuel production.

Calculating land use changes in 34 countries including Brazil, the USA, and the EU, a team headed by Hans Langeveld demonstrated biofuels are not likely to compete with food production – or cause major deforestation, usually indicated as indirect land use change (ILUC). According to the study, between 2000 and 2010, urbanisation claimed twice the amount of land used for biofuel expansion.

It contains other revealing data. “Increases in crop harvested area compensated biofuel expansion”, says Langeveld. “It even made up for loss of agricultural land due to urbanisation”.

Farmers adapted to increased demand for crops. “Not so much by opening new land”, he adds, “but by using it more effectively”. Farmers thus managed to harvest more crops – from less land.

“It does not mean that biofuel production never affects food production”, he adds. “Competition for land does occur. Locally, biofuel producers may use land that was used for other crops.”

The researcher emphasises that this practice should be discouraged.

“Existing land rights should be respected – at all times”.

The report arrives in a time where biofuel policies are highly criticised. It is expected to play a role in further discussions on the ILUC debate. Last week, a new iLUC study by the American researcher Timothy Searchinger was attacked for being based on weak evidence.

The study ´Analysing the effect of biofuel expansion on land use change in major producing countries: evidence of increased multiple cropping´ was authored by Hans Langeveld, John Dixon ( Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research), Herman van Keulen (emiritus professor of Wageningen University and Research Centre) and Foluke Quist-Wessel (Agri-Quest).

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