November 12, 2007 / 6:23 PM / 12 years ago

Ethanol leaders urge U.N. to review biofuel report

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Leaders of the world’s largest ethanol production and trade associations issued a joint statement on Monday condemning a United Nations’ interim report that called biofuels production a “crime against humanity.”

A worker cuts sugar cane for raw sugar and ethanol fuel production on the property of the Sao Martinho mill in Pradopolis, about 300 kms (186 miles) northwest of Sao Paulo July 6, 2007. Leaders of the world's largest ethanol production and trade associations issued a joint statement on Monday condemning a United Nations' interim report that called biofuels production a "crime against humanity." REUTERS/Rickey Rogers

They said the report has many “misperceptions” and ask for its revision, warning that it could threaten the development of the industry in places where biofuels directives are not fully implemented, like in the European Union.

“The report was based on emotional arguments and we are trying to reestablish the truth about facts,” Marcos Jank, president of the Brazilian Cane Sugar Industry Union (Unica), said in a news conference.

“We urge the U.N. to review the report with a focus on sound science, credible data rather than exceptions or unsupported assumptions,” Jank added.

A copy of the joint three-page letter was given to the U.N.’s ambassador in Brazil, Kim Bolduc, on Sunday during U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to an ethanol mill in Sao Paulo. The document was officially sent to the United Nations on Monday.

Besides Unica, the United States Renewable Fuels Association, the European Bioethanol Fuel Association and the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association also signed the document. These countries produce more than 80 percent of world ethanol output.

The U.N.’s interim report was written by Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziggler, and submitted to the U.N. General Assembly in August.

It called for a five-year moratorium on biofuels, claiming they are responsible for current and future increases in food prices that could lead to widespread hunger in poor countries.

“Hunger is not a problem of supply but demand, low income,” Jank said, adding that Brazil managed to increase food, fibers and feed production in the last 30 years as well as its biofuels output.

Brazil is the world’s largest cane-based ethanol producer and the largest exporter. Ethanol makes up for almost half of the fuels used by light vehicles running in the country and consumes half of its massive cane crop, helping to support sugar prices.

The decision to write the statement was taken last week in a meeting in the sidelines of the F.O. Licht’s ethanol seminar in Amsterdam.

The group intends to gather again in February to discuss other initiatives, despite differences between the Brazilian industry and its competitors, Jank said.

One of the main conflicts is the United States’ and European Union’s protectionism against ethanol produced abroad. Both markets impose high import tariffs on the Brazilian biofuel, which usually impede trade.

“The United States should consider importing cane-based ethanol from developing countries. It costs less and is more energy efficient than the one made with corn ... Of course there are national issues, but we can identify a common agenda,” Jank said.

Reporting by Inae Riveras; Editing by Christian Wiessner

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