• Biofuel production is causing ‘land grab’ says World Bank

    The World Bank has admitted that the European and American biofuel targets are encouraging a rush for land in Africa and other developing regions that is reducing the amount of land available for growing food. The finding adds to growing concerns about indirect land-use change caused by biofuel production, and comes as the Commission has launched a consultation about such biofuel impacts.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]The World Bank’s report suggests the rapid rise in global food prices in 2006-08 was probably not due to biofuel production taking away food land but to the rise in energy prices. But it warns that biofuel targets set by the EU and USA are causing investors to view every farm, jungle and meadow in the developing world the same way they view an oil field.

    The report says: ‘Biofuel mandates may have large indirect effects on land-use change, particularly converting pasture and forest land … Experts have long been concerned that by affecting prices, biofuel mandates will have sizeable impacts on land-use far beyond the countries where they operate.’

    The report suggests large-scale deals to sell farmland for biofuel production can help people in developing countries, if the income from such land sales is used for improving food productivity. But it says secretive tactics among buyers and sellers, and a lack of transparency over such deals, mean such benefits often don’t happen in practice.

    Friends of the Earth and BirdLife International have recently made efforts to highlight the impact European biofuels companies are having in Africa.

    FoE quoted a campaigner in Nigeria as saying ‘The demand for biofuels is transforming our natural resources into fuel crops, taking away food-growing farmland and creating conflicts over land ownership. We are suffering just so that European and developed nations can fuel their cars and lorries.’

    And BirdLife is highlighting the potential impact of a 50 000-hectare project for an Italian-owned company to grow jatropha for biodiesel in an important bird area in Kenya. ‘The assault on Kenya’s precious environment by European companies is a clear warning of the global footprint of the EU’s insane biofuels policy,’ said Ariel Brunner of BirdLife. ‘If the EU doesn’t heed the call of reason and make a U-turn on its drive for biofuels, we are bound to see ever more cases like this one.’

    A recent survey by the environmental news service Ends Europe shows 26 of the 27 EU member states are not planning to increase biofuel use beyond the EU’s current target of 10% of transport fuels by 2020.

    EU Observer reports that biofuel use is likely to reach 4.8% in the transport sector by the end of this year, falling nearly 1% behind the EU’s target for 2010 of 5.75%.

    World Bank report