By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A European Parliamentary committee on Tuesday backed a new limit on traditional biofuels made from food crops that critics say stoke inflation and do more harm than good to the environment.
Those seeking to promote a new generation of advanced biofuels made from seaweed or waste welcomed Tuesday's vote.
But those who have invested in biofuels made from crops such as maize or rapeseed say it puts jobs at risk.
Current legislation requires EU member states to ensure that renewable sources account for at least 10 percent of energy in transport by 2020.
The European Parliament's environment committee on Tuesday agreed that biofuel from food crops should not exceed 6 percent of final energy use in transport - a tougher limit than the 7 percent backed by member states last year.
It also agreed negotiations between member states, the European Commission and the Parliament should start now on a legislative text, rather than waiting for a plenary parliamentary vote.
Thomas Nagy, executive vice-president at Novozymes, the world’s leading supplier of enzymes for the production of conventional and advanced ethanol, said Tuesday's decision was long overdue and should help to spur necessary investment in the right kind of biofuels.
"A stable and effective framework is the only way forward to secure commercial deployment," he said.
But ePURE, the European Renewable Ethanol Association, called on member states "to remain firm on a minimum 7 percent cap for conventional biofuels".
Apart from the impact on food prices, using farmland to produce biofuels adds to pressure to free up land through deforestation, which can result in increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Green members of the European Parliament said Tuesday's compromise deal meant changes in land use and the resulting emissions would be accounted for, although it said the proposals did not go far enough.
British liberal lawmaker Catherine Bearder also said the deal fell short, but would help to "combat deforestation, hunger and climate change".
The European People's Party, the main centre-right grouping in the European Parliament, regretted the outcome.
It said it could mean the failure of negotiations that still have to take place on a final legal text, protracting regulatory uncertainty that has already dragged on for years.
(Editing by Susan Thomas)