Blog: Dean BestEU grain move highlights biofuels debate

Dean Best | 26 September 2007

Europe’s food producers could be forgiven for applauding this afternoon’s (26 September) move to free up more of the continent’s land for cereal production.

EU ministers have backed moves to suspend subsidies paid to farmers to keep land fallow for the rest of the year, in a bid to boost cereals production and, crucially, to help cool the rise in commodity costs seen in recent months.

On the face of it, the EU should be applauded. However, decisions from the EU’s executive, the European Commission, may have already contributed to soaring grain prices this year.

Food manufacturers far and wide have pointed to poor weather and growing demand in Asia for the pressure on commodity costs. A third factor often cited is the rising production of biofuels – something that the Commission has steadfastly supported.

Last month, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel quashed suggestions that biofuel production was pushing up the cost of grain and therefore food prices. The EU wants biofuels to cover 10% of EU fuel demand, and the Commission is drafting laws that would force member states to increase biofuel production and consumption.

“[Biofuels] play a marginal role at most in the EU context,” Fischer Boel ventured. That role may be marginal now but the Commission’s stance suggests it will only grow in the future.


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