Saturday

27th May 2017

Brussels blames part of food price rise on US biofuels policy

  • Trade commissioner Mandelson says that American biofuels policies are having a negative impact on global food prices (Photo: European Community, 2005)

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson has conceded that certain biofuel policies contribute to food price rises and increase greenhouse gas emissions, but that Europe's policies are sound.

Instead, Mr Mandelson has suggested that it is Washington's biofuels policies that are having these unwanted consequences.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"We can already see that large-scale biofuel production, especially in the US, may be one of the factors pushing up food prices as it diverts resources from food production," said the commissioner, writing in UK daily the Guardian on Tuesday (29 April).

"The race to grow maize for ethanol subsidies in the US reduces the supply of food crops on world markets and drives up the cost of this important staple," he continued.

EU leaders last spring agreed that the EU should increase the use of biofuels in transport fuel to ten percent by 2020, up from a planned 5.75 percent target to be achieved by 2010.

But in recent months the target has come under strong fire with critics saying it is contributing to further poverty in already poor countries as land is cleared for biofuel production.

According to Mr Mandelson, European biofuel production is having "only a minimal effect" on global prices.

Quoting the soundbite green NGOs have been using in their multiple campaigns against biofuels over the last year, the commissioner wrote: "There are enough corn calories in an SUV fuel tank to feed a person for a year."

No social criteria

But he warned that any consideration of social questions amongst the criteria for allowing imports of biofuels would have much wider consequences for Europe's trade agenda.

"Why should we suggest there is an obligation on producers who export sugar cane biofuel, but not on those who export plain sugar cane?"

A trade official told the EUobserver that social questions cannot be included because they "can't be defended that at the WTO," and "in any case, taken to it's logical extreme, we would have to ensure that everything we import, not just biofuels, meet social criteria," he said. "Do we want that?"

"We have to ensure our thoughts are known in other ways, such as pushing our trading partners to sign up to International Labour Organisation standards."

The commission's agriculture spokesperson on Tuesday echoed the criticism of Washington's biofuels strategies.

"It would be wrong to claim, and no one has ever claimed that people in America growing a lot of corn for ethanol does not have an effect."

Nonetheless, he said: "It is not for us to tell the US what strategies and policies to have."

However, not all the commissioners have been singing from the same song sheet. Last week, development commissioner Louis Michel criticised biofuels as a "catastrophe" for food prices.

For his part, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso recently called for a study on whether there is any relationship between the increased food prices around the world and biofuels.

Portugal held up as symbol of EU recovery

Portugal to sail out of troubled waters after eight years of financial crisis, EU commission predicted, amid broad but "fragile" recovery in European economy.

Trade deal ratification needs member states, EU court says

The EU Court of Justice has ruled that the Singapore trade deal needs member states' ratification in its current form. It said that only investments do not belong under the EU's sole competence, potentially removing Brexit complications.

News in Brief

  1. Malloch will not be US ambassador to the EU
  2. 'Significant' drop in EU migration to UK
  3. Bomb injures former Greek PM
  4. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  5. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  6. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  7. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  8. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms