February 26, 2010
Regarding ‘Controversy mounts over EU biofuels fall-out‘:
The Standing Committee of the Bern Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats), worried that the increase of biofuel cropping systems may lead to cultivation escapes of invasive taxa with subsequent negative effects on native biological diversity, adopted advice to reduce impacts of potentially invasive alien plants used as biofuel crops on species biodiversity and natural ecosystems (Recommendation 141, 2009).
The Italian Institute for Environmental Protection (ISPRA), with a report submitted to the Bern Convention panel of European experts, prompted these measures. In its report, ISPRA (an agency led by the Italian Ministry for the Environment) drew attention to the fact that sustainable development and environmental benefits can be jointly achieved only when biofuel crops are farmed in an environmentally sustainable manner.
The Recommendation, which is legally binding on member states, warns that some biofuel crops invade disturbed areas outside cultivated fields, and in so doing may impact on native biodiversity. The Council of Europe advises a reduction of the potential invasiveness of alien plants used as biofuel crops.
It is important, say the experts, to bring in pre-cultivation screening for each proposed genotype and region. In addition, new cultivation criteria to limit the dispersal and recruitment capacity of the invasive crops need to be introduced. Without these measures, escaped biofuel crops may cause loss of native biodiversity and farmland functionality.
In the long-term, biofuel crops with invasive traits need to be limited in number and extent, even if this affects agronomic efficiency and the financial bottom line. Complying with these Bern Convention recommendations will conserve Europe’s wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats while producing sustainable energy, allowing European states to reach the policy targets on use of renewable energy sources.
Janette FiddesAuthor : Letters to the EurActiv editor