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Report: Biofuels Impacting Land-Use, Biodiversity

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May 7, 2008

Minneapolis, MN – A new study by a Minnesota-based agricultural think tank finds the growing use of crops for fuel is having unexpected consequences. Ben Lilliston, with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, explains food production around the world is being expanded to meet the demand for biofuels, which has serious implications.

"The feedstock that's used to produce biofuels is having a very serious and adverse effect on biodiversity in some of the more fragile and rare ecosystems in the world. It's clearing off land that was not in production, expanding into areas protected previously, and this is what's causing some of the concern.""

For example, he notes, greater sugar cane production in Brazil contributes to destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The United States is not immune from harmful effects, either. Increased corn planting in this country is reducing the diversity of crop rotations and threatening wetlands.

The report attributes the rapid expansion of the biofuel industry to increased crude oil prices and national policies that encourage the production and use of food for energy.

Lilleston emphasizes the report doesn't call for a halt in biofuel development, but rather for trying to avoid some of its negative side effects and protect ecosystems.

"What we need to do is take a step back here, and really build sustainability into the biofuels sector. In other words, we need to make protecting rainforests and native ecosystems part of the priority. "

The institute's full report is available online at iatp.org.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN