By Daniel Hunter

EU plans to promote the replacement of fossil fuels with biomass at the Rio+20 Earth Summit could lead to hunger and environmental devastation, according to a report released today (Tuesday) by the World Development Movement and the Transnational Institute.

The report, Bio-economies: the EU’s real ‘Green Economy’ agenda, condemns the EU’s bio-economy vision as “a tantalising mirage, promising a green future but likely to deliver a parched and arid reality”.

The EU’s bio-economy policy aims to replace fossil fuels with biomass — including wood fibres, grass, bamboo, soybeans, corn and algae - as a source of energy and in the production of plastics and other manufactured goods. But the EU’s own analysis indicates that this would have a disastrous impact on developing countries, including severe pressures on food supply.

“Substituting biomass for fossil fuels sounds like the easy solution to climate change. But in reality, it leads to land grabs, the destruction of rainforests, and severe food shortages where land is used to grow fuel instead of food. And the idea that biofuels are ‘carbon neutral’ is a myth," Alex Scrivener, policy officer at the World Development Movement, said.

“Far from being about environmental protection, the EU’s bio-economy agenda is about maximising Europe’s competitive advantage in biotechnology and securing cheap resources for European manufacturing.

“By pushing the bio-economy agenda at Rio+20, the UK and other EU countries are showing themselves willing to allow the world’s poorest people to pay the price for the overconsumption of the industrialised world through the destruction of their natural resources and the creation of food shortages.”

The report also warns of the dangers of attributing a financial value to resources like water and biodiversity and bringing them into the market, arguing that this would put them under the control of the financial sector.

The World Development Movement and the Transnational Institute are calling for an end to subsidies for fossil fuels and large scale biomass energy production, and for support to go instead to community-level solar, wind and tidal energy.

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