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Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 27th June 2012.

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Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the potential effect on biodiversity of increasing biofuel production.

Photo of Richard Benyon Richard Benyon The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government's Bioenergy Strategy, published on 24 April, summarises the principal impacts of bioenergy on biodiversity as follows:

"Demand for bioenergy can present risks for biodiversity and ecosystems through loss of semi-natural and natural habitats (such as forest clearance), intensification of agricultural production and the potential introduction of non-native invasive species. There is, therefore, a potential tension with the Government's commitment to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation both domestically and internationally, particularly the issue of potentially increasing water stress. On the other hand, a number of reports show that perennial energy crops, such as short rotation coppice and miscanthus if cultivated in the right place and in the right way, can be better for biodiversity and water quality than arable crops such as wheat and maize. There will also be benefits if energy demand leads to unmanaged forests being brought back into sensitive management. The precise impacts depend on the previous nature of the land, the nature and location of the new crops and their management, for example by avoiding large swathes of monoculture."

DEFRA is currently undertaking further research on the impacts of low carbon technologies, including biofuels, on biodiversity. The analysis is due to be published later this year.

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