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A new study by environmental lobby groups has called for the European Union (EU) to halt the use of edible feedstocks in biofuel production which it claims is contributing to global food insecurity following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, AgriCensus reported on 24 March.

The call to suspend the use of edible crops, such as corn, vegetable oils and wheat, in biofuel production was made by a coalition of environmental NGOs for national governments, the report said.

“The EU and other countries are using enormous amounts of food crops for biofuels. Cutting those feedstocks out of the EU’s biofuels mix would shield the EU from major supply shortages and would also ease pressure on the world market,” the study, which was commissioned by Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment, said.

By cutting out sunflower oil from the EU’s biodiesel market, for example, import dependency could be reduced by a third, freeing up nearly 9% of the sunflower oil supplied by Ukraine to the global market, according to the report.

The study pointed out that the EU’s ability to switch from crop-based feedstocks to waste-based products such as used cooking oil (UCO) or ‘advanced’ materials such as farm and forest residues was also highly limited, while bio-methane – which had been raised as a potential replacement for imports of Russian natural gas – was also limited in terms of available crop-based feedstocks.

According to the report, oils derived from palm, rapeseed, soyabean and sunflower crops make up 78% of biodiesel feedstocks.

At the time of going to press, AgriCensus said biofuels lobby groups had not responded to the study, although some ethanol and biodiesel producers had previously said that the bulk of the wheat and corn consumed in the EU was animal feed grade rather than designated for human consumption.