June 23. 2024. 1:21

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Eat less meat, we need space for biofuels, German producer says

In an ongoing dispute over biofuels made from crops such as rapeseed and wheat, Germany’s biggest biofuel producer argues that reducing meat consumption would be a much better way to free up agricultural space for food production, rather than phasing out crop-based biofuels.

“We have to eat less meat,” Claus Sauter, CEO of Verbio, Germany’s biggest biofuel producer, told Taz on Saturday. “Then, even in crises, we would have enough grain and enough arable land for direct food and for bioenergy production,” he said.

“It takes up to ten kilos of grain as feed to produce one kilogram of beef,” Sauter said. “Meat production is energy destruction.”

Of the more than 50% of the grain used for animal feed, only 10% is used for energy such as biofuels, he added.

Crop-based biofuels, such as bioethanol and biodiesel, are set to be phased out in Germany by 2030, according to a plan drafted by Green ministers, Environment Minister Steffi Lemke and Agricultural Minister Cem Özdemir.

Instead, agricultural production should “concentrate on food,” Lemke said in January.

The plan has, however, received resistance within Germany’s governing coalition, with the Transport Ministry, led by liberal Minister Volker Wissing (FDP/Renew Europe), arguing that all options to reduce emissions in the transport sector should be used. An intra-governmental agreement has not yet been reached.

Lemke’s initial proposal came after the war in Ukraine had led to drastically increased food prices in global markets.

“In our opinion, the reason given by the German Environment Ministry is obsolete: the prices for wheat and oilseeds have fallen dramatically, and in countries bordering Ukraine, there is a glut of wheat,” Dieter Bockey of the German union for the promotion of oil and protein plants (UFOP), told EURACTIV in February.

But while environmentalists agree that meat consumption must be reduced, they believe additional space is needed for the renaturation of forests and peatlands to increase the amount of carbon stored naturally and help mitigate climate change.

“If we have to grow less grain for meat production, then we should rather let forests grow again on the vacant land instead of planting agrofuel crops there,” Martin Hofstetter, an agricultural engineer at Greenpeace, told Taz.

German consumers are increasingly eating less meat as in 2022, they ate four kilograms less meat per person per year less than in 2021 and eight kilos less than in 2017, according to the Federal Information Center for Agriculture (BZL).

(Jonathan Packroff | EURACTIV.de)