Nestle chief warns biofuels threaten food supplies

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Biofuels Biofuel

Nestle SA chief executive Peter Braback condemns proposals for
increasing biofuel production as morally unacceptable, warning they
will have devastating effects on food supplies.

Biofuels are considered by some to be the greener alternative as an energy source, being derived entirely from renewable supplies. However, this viewpoint has proved controversial, with debate raging on the effectiveness of biofuels. In an interview with Swiss Sunday paper NZZ am Sonntag this weekend, Braback reportedly said attempts to derive 20 per cent of rising oil demands from biofuels will result in a food shortage. He reportedly said it was irresponsible to turn food into biofuels when people worldwide are struggling to feed themselves and their families. Braback's recent comments echo concerns raised by UN rapporteur Jean Ziegler last October, who said the corn needed to make 50 litres of bioethanol could feed a child for a year. The greener option? ​New greener policies have pushed for an increase in biofuel production. EU policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions says that 10 per cent of transport fuel should come from biofuels by 2020. Britain has a separate target of 5 per cent biofuels in petrol and diesel by 2010 through its Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), which will take effect on April 15. In 2007, tax credits handed out to biofuels in the developed world added up to €10 billion. However, this increasing demand for biofuels has been blamed in part for the increase in food prices in the last 18 months - as demand increases, so does the price of what raw material there is available for all uses, be it food, animal feed, or biofuel. Moreover, it has been linked to food shortages. Similarly, those who oppose biofuels argue its failure in protecting the environment. Kenneth Richter, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth told that the current rush to develop biofuels on a large scale is "ill-conceived"​ and will "contribute to an already unsustainable trade"​ while not solving the problems of climate change or energy security. He said: "In reality many biofuels deliver poor greenhouse gas savings and some of them pose a threat to ecosystems that act as vital carbon sinks." ​Instead, he said the environment charity believes a more efficient way to reduce greenhouse gases is to "reduce demand, improve efficiency and develop sustainable transport and energy systems"​. "The international trade in important agricultural commodities such as soy and palm oil is already unsustainable and leads to major environmental and social problems - deforestation, damage to valuable ecosystems and carbon sinks, displacement of indigenous and other local people and replacement of small-scale farming with intensively-grown monocultures,"​ he added."Europe's new demand for biofuels from the same crops is likely to make this trade even more unsustainable." Second generation biofuels ​ EuropaBio, an association that represents Europe's bioindustries, said last month the use of biomass for fuel should not jeopardise the food supply, but more European investment is needed in second generation technology that does not compete with food sources. It insisted that that biofuel industry should not result in global food shortages, as part of its four pillar of sustainability for the biofuels industry, which were unveiled at the World Biofuels Market in Brussels. EuropaBio's position is that the role of the developing biofuels industry in current food price hikes has been over-played. It said although first generation biofuels are partly responsible since they used corn and other starch sources that are also required for food, higher demand for meat and dairy from emerging Asian economies and inclement weather in agricultural zones have had a bigger impact.

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