Biofuels 'need ethical standards'

Polices to boost the use of "green" transport fuels are weak when it comes to protecting the environment, reducing the rise in food prices and avoiding human rights violations, a report has warned.

A study by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics branded the existing targets on biofuels as "unethical" because of the problems they cause for nature as well as for people in the areas where crops are grown for this purpose.

Experts have called for the establishment of a compulsory scheme to certify that biofuels imported into or sold in Europe meet a series of ethical standards.

Current EU rules state that by 2020, Europe must make sure that 10% of transport fuels come from biofuels, which can be made from renewable plant sources such as sugar cane or palm oil rather than using up fossil fuels.

Britain has a target for biofuels to make up 5% of petrol and diesel sold on forecourts by 2013.

Researchers said a number of problems have been linked to the current production of the fuels, including more greenhouse gases being released as a result of rainforests being cleared to make space for crops, destroying the habitat of rare wildlife and evidence of "near-slavery conditions" on plantations.

The expansion in biofuels have also been adding to the rise in food prices in recent years.

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