ethanol pump

New warnings in a report published by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center caution against the proliferation of biofuels, citing major habitat loss as a result of converting pastures, savannas and forests into cropland for the gasoline alternative.

The report comes as a debate is underway in the EU about how to manage land use changes needed for biofuel legislation. The plan is currently designed to expand the number of biofuel-based vehicles to ten percent by 2020. But, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the EU’s goal could require land measuring nearly half the size of the Netherlands to be converted into biofuel crops in biodiverse-rich areas including Brazil and sub-Saharan Africa, eliminating a number of already threatened flora and fauna species. Brazil’s genetically modified crop growth is already outpacing growth of non-GMO crops at the expense of large areas of the Amazon.

At least 80 percent of species would be lost in areas converted to biofuel cropland, according to the preliminary report that urges for more research on the issue as the biofuel industry is gaining popularity for its believed benefits in being a more effective way of reducing transportation emissions, which are damaging to the environment.

But, with biodiversity threatened at such great numbers, it calls into question whether or not biofuels are a realistic alternative to crude oil. Mostly corn and sugarcane used in ethanol production, biofuel crops are often genetically modified, raising another issue for many environmentalists as the use of GMO crops brings the risks of crop drift contamination of non-GMO crops and an increased use of toxic pesticides like Monsanto’s popular glyphosate-based Roundup, a known toxin to humans and the environment.

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Image: Spencer T.