The report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics blames current UK and European policies for failing to protect the environment, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid human rights violations in developing countries.

The 18-month inquiry points to deforestation and the displacement of indigenous people as dangers of the rapid expansion of biofuels production in the developing world.

It says that the European targets to have 10% of transport fuel coming from renewable sources by 2020 have led to imports of biofuels from countries that do not all have responsible or enforceable policies on climate change or human rights.

The report ‘Biofuels: ethical issues’, recommends that a set of ethical principles should be applied to biofuels imported into Europe.

These would include the condition that biofuels should be environmentally sustainable, reduce greenhouse gases and should not be at the expense of human rights.

Professor Joyce Tait led the enquiry. She said: “These ethical conditions should be enforced through a certification scheme – a bit like the Fair Trade scheme for cocoa and coffee.

“This would create a market for environmentally sustainable and ‘human rights friendly’ biofuels.

“We appreciate the difficulties in applying firm ethical principles in the real world, but existing biofuels policy is failing. We can set the standard in Europe and encourage the rest of the world to follow suit. This is a global problem that needs a global solution.”

The Council calls for governments to develop a strategy and policies that protect the environment.

It also wants the government to help research into production methods that use less land, produce fewer greenhouse gases and do not compete with food.

The report calls for support for research such as developing technologies that use all of the plant, resulting in less waste and higher energy outputs.

To read the full report go to Nuffield’s website.

Alison Brown

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