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EU Commission says not dropping biofuels goal

The European Commission is not starting to backtrack on its target of getting 10% of its road transport fuel from crops and biomass by 2020, a spokesman said on Monday.

The January proposals have become increasingly controversial amid soaring world food prices and fears that farm land in developing countries is being diverted away from food crops towards others that can be distilled into vehicle fuel. Asked by reporters whether media reports that the Commission was reconsidering the biofuel target were true, the spokesman said: “The answer is very simple -- no.” Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas last week told Reuters the target would be subservient to strict conditions to prevent social harm and to the promotion of second generation biofuels. The next generation of biofuels is expected to come largely from domestic and agricultural waste rather than food crops such as maize, sugar cane and palm oil. Environmentalists have stepped up campaigning against biofuels, arguing they are already diverting production away from food and animal feed, and contributing to sharp rises in the price of cereals and milk products.

Riots in Haiti this month over food prices have added urgency to the debate. The European Commission did not include social impacts in the criteria it proposed in January, which mostly concerned protecting rainforests and ensuring that biofuels achieve a real reduction in greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. A European Union working group is currently looking at how to set criteria to limit social damage, but has not been empowered to reconsider the 10% target. (Reuters)