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Proposed bio-ethanol plant concerns critics

Switzerland's first bio-ethanol refinery could soon be built in canton Jura if authorities there approve a planning application for the project published on Wednesday.

Officials promoting the SFr100 million ($88.44 million) plant in Delémont, western Switzerland, say the refinery could produce almost 100,000 tons of fuel and 30,000 tons of pharmaceutical-grade alcohol annually.

But environmentalists and other activists have denounced the project as “irresponsible”. They argue that bio-ethanol, though produced from renewable, organic sources, takes up agricultural land that could be used to grow food.

The proposed plant would refine crude sugar-cane alcohol imported from Brazil, where critics say intensive farming, human rights violations and deforestation plague the industry.

Switzerland has some of the most stringent rules governing so-called agrofuels. Authorities grant tax breaks to companies only if they can prove that their production is environmentally friendly based on land use and gas emissions.

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