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Grain during a Greenpeace protest against the production of biofuels from grain in front of the German Ministry of Transport in Berlin, Germany on June 1, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

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  • Grain, vegetable oil can be redirected from fuel to food
  • Food security in the spotlight at the G7 summit in Germany

LONDON, June 23 (Reuters) – Officials from some G7 countries, including Germany and the UK, will push for the temporary lifting of biofuel mandates to fight rising food prices when leaders of the wealthy country group meet on Sunday, three people who know with this question. Reuters reported.

The food crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine has sparked a debate about food and biofuels, with some politicians calling for an easing of mandates to blend biofuels with gasoline and diesel to increase the world’s supply of grains and vegetable oil.

“We are very interested in looking at biofuel mandates to ensure that crops are prioritized for human consumption and not necessarily for fuel use,” a British government spokesman told Reuters.

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It is unclear whether there is widespread support for a temporary waiver of biofuel mandates among G7 members, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the world’s largest biofuel producer, the United States. Rising oil and gas prices have also increased the demand for energy from crops.

“The issue of mandates for biofuels is in the early stages of discussion at the working level,” said a spokesman for Agriculture Canada.

The group is starting a three-day meeting in Bavaria, Germany on Sunday, and food security is expected to be on the agenda after the president launched the Global Food Security Alliance to fight hunger in May.

It is not clear whether Germany or the UK are considering phasing out biofuel mandates in their home market.

Prices for crops used to make biofuels have jumped this year, with wheat and corn up by about a quarter and soybean oil by about a fifth.

Cereals and oilseeds could be switched from fuel to help deal with the global food crisis, but many governments have laws requiring biofuel production, in part to support local farmers and meet emission reduction targets.

“These rules really need to be cut at a time of high food prices,” said Joe Glauber, senior fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. He added that the removal of biofuel mandates could help bring down food prices, although in some countries this could lead to a slight increase in fuel prices.

According to the World Resources Institute, up to 40% of the US corn crop is used to produce ethanol for blending with gasoline in cars, producing about 5% of the country’s transportation fuel, while 10% of Europe’s cereal production is used as fuel. Removing biofuel mandates is not expected to have much of an impact on the US industry because corn-based ethanol is more competitive than biofuels produced elsewhere in the world, but such a move would have a bigger impact in Europe, Glauber said.

ENVIRONMENTAL POWERS

In recent years, environmental groups and governments have raised concerns that biofuels are fueling record expansion of arable land, including through deforestation, casting doubt on any environmental benefit. However, most governments include biofuels in their carbon reduction plans.

In the EU, a proposed amendment to the Renewable Energy Directive that sets out the bloc’s goals for green energy, reduces the use of crop-based biofuels, and also phases out some deforestation-related fuels such as palm and soybeans will be considered industry committee next month. The German Ministry of the Environment has gone a step further by proposing a complete phase-out of food crops in biofuels by 2030.

One of the burning issues in the debate in Germany is how the country will fulfill its emission reduction plans without the use of biofuels. “In the transport sector, we will have to find compensation solutions,” said Bernt Farke, Director General for Forests, Sustainability and Renewable Resources at the German Ministry of Agriculture. He added that options include using hydrogen, increasing the use of electric vehicles and imposing speed limits on motorways.

Earlier this month, 38 scientists wrote to the European Parliament calling for changes to the EU’s carbon reduction plans as current targets would encourage deforestation as more land is used to meet the bloc’s demand for agricultural products, including for bioenergy production.

Some studies have shown that biofuels are likely to contribute more to global warming than conventional fuels. read more

Biofuel producers and farmers are not expected to support waiving the mandates.

Britain’s biofuel trading body, the Renewable Transport Fuels Association, said that phasing out biofuel mandates would be futile as farmers would be left with poor quality wheat that is not suitable for human consumption.

“This will increase costs for livestock farmers as less of the high-protein animal feed by-product from bioethanol production will be available,” said Gaynor Hartnell, chief executive of RTFA.

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Posted by Sarah MacFarlane Additional posting by Sarah Marsh; editing by David Evans

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