The European Union is close to establishing standards for biofuels that privilege human rights and species at risk of extinction.
In February it set up a working group to look into ways of obtaining 10 percent of its transport fuels from renewable sources such as biofuels by 2020, without provoking social or environmental harm.
The use of biofuels is booming in developed countries keen to reduce their dependence on imported oil and cut carbon dioxide emissions, but critics say the biofuel industry causes deforestation and, by competing for grain, makes food prices increase.
The aid agency Oxfam declared last week that, among its various side-effects, the biofuel boom is forcing 30 million people round the world into poverty.
After considering the possibility of imposing legally binding standards on exporters, the EU working group abandoned the idea since it would risk infringing World Trade Organization rules on free trade.
Environmentalists claim that biofuel production has caused deforestation by exploiting agricultural land and forcing farmers to cut down virgin rainforest to create land for food crops.
Though the EU still has the problem of monitoring the situation outside its own boundaries, its new rules will protect biodiversity by banning incentives for biofuels grown in primary forests, in biodiverse grasslands and savannah and the habitats of rare species.
Fundamental issues that still have to be clarified are the level of greenhouse gas savings a biofuel is required to achieve and the criteria for calculating crop yields and converting them to biofuels.