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Bad Biofuels?

DW staff (th)May 7, 2008

The German government rejected claims Tuesday that fuel crops were causing a worldwide spike in food prices. Berlin plans to announce a plan for easing the world food crisis by July, agriculture minister Seehofer said.

A close-up shot of corn cobs
Fuel or food?Image: AP

Germany cannot reach its climate change goals unless it dedicates land to growing biofuels, Germany's agriculture minister Horst Seehofer said after talks in Berlin on Tuesday, May 6. Seehofer defended biofuels against growing criticism that they are responsible for food prices increasing globally, which has caused rioting and hunger in developing countries.

"There would also be hunger without biofuel," Seehofer said, who promised that the government would announce this summer what it will do to help ease the global food crisis.

In many countries, the hunger crisis is caused by population increases and the increasing demand for food in developing and emerging countries, said Seehofer.

Ethanol under scrutiny

Only 2 percent of cropland worldwide was being used to produce ethanol, a popular biofuel often made from corn, Seehofer said. Ethanol has come under heavy criticism recently and which forms an important part of Germany's biofuel targets.

Many farmers are switching from growing corn and wheat for food to instead focus on producing biofuel crops.

Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel also promised Tuesday that Germany will stick to its biofuel strategy, which calls for increasing reliance on plant fuels by 2020. Gabriel acknowledged that the government's goal of having 17 percent of energy come from biofuel by 2020 might be overly optimistic and said the German parliament will decide in the near future whether to hold to a 2009 goal of having biofuel make up 6.25 percent of overall fuel consumption.

Call for relaxed meat restrictions

In a time of increasing prices for all types of food, Seehofer said the German government will seek to increase meat production by pushing through rule changes to allow ground-up animal remains can be fed to pigs and poultry.

Eight years ago the European Union banned the use of ground-up animal carcasses as cheap feed after determining that cattle were catching bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) from eating brains of dead cows.

In April the EU relaxed rules on feeding fishmeal to calves and lambs.