Oxfam reaction to European Commission’s report on impact of EU biofuels policy on food and land rights

Published: 27 March 2013

Today, the European Commission published its first Communication on the impact of EU biofuels policy on food security and land rights in developing countries. The publication of this report coincides with the launch of a public debate on Europe’s 2030 energy and climate framework.

In reaction, Marc-Olivier Herman, Oxfam’s EU policy advisor, said:

“The European Commission is sticking its head in the sand. The report concludes that it’s unclear if EU biofuels demand contributes to any abuse of land use rights and downplays its impacts on food prices. The ugly reality is that Europe’s thirst for biofuels is forcing poor farmers off their land and fuelling food price spikes, as repeatedly argued by development agencies such as the FAO, the World Bank and the World Food Programme.

“Europe must now come to terms with the fact that its growing appetite for biofuels is threatening the lives of millions in the developing world. The European Parliament and EU Member States, who are reviewing EU biofuels legislation, must rapidly phase out support for biofuels which are competing with food for crops, land and water.”

Examples from the field 

Many smallholder farmers in countries such as Brazil and Indonesia are suffering the consequences of the rapid expansion of biofuels production in their communities. The mass production of crops such as soy, sugarcane and palm oil means that small-scale farmers are getting pushed off their land, experiencing human rights violations, food insecurity and health problems.

Nilfo Wandscheer of FORMAD, a network of family farming associations in Mato Grosso, Brazil, said:

“Small farmers are being pushed off their land to make room for the increase of biofuel crops such as soy and sugarcane. This means that not only are people losing their livelihoods, but we now have to import food from other parts of Brazil at much higher prices.”

Rinting Siten of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), Indonesia, said:

“The expansion of palm oil plantations across Indonesia is relentless. The rights of indigenous people are constantly being disregarded; palm oil companies are taking away our land, our water and our food security. We are caught up in a losing game, and it’s hard for us to see an end in sight.”

Notes to Editors

Background

  • Under the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive (RED), the European Commission is obliged to report every two years on the environmental and social sustainability of the EU’s biofuel policy to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. Today’s Communication, alongside a Staff Working Paper, is the first of such reports. The next one is due in 2014 when the 10% binding target for renewable energy in transport -which is largely being met through biofuels produced from food crops- is up for review.
  • Today, the Commission also published its Green Paper on Europe’s 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework. – please see:

-       Climate Action Network reaction to the European Commission's Green Paper on Europe’s 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework

-       Oxfam reaction to the launch of the EC consultation on the 2015 International Climate Change Deal

Contact Information

For a more in-depth analysis, please contact: Angela Corbalan on + 32 473 56 22 60 or angela.corbalan@oxfaminternational.org

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