EU ministers have agreed a 7% limit on the amount of biofuels made from food crops in transport fuel.
The deal breaks the deadlock reached late last year, when European Union governments failed to agree on a proposed 5% cap on the use of biofuels based on crops such as maize or rapeseed.
The deal will require approval from the European Parliament, which is expected to begin considering it later this year.
“We think this proposal is much better than nothing,” European energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger told the Luxembourg meeting of ministers.
“We need to support research and development in advanced biofuels so we can move forward from generation one into generation two and generation three,” he added, referring to more sophisticated biofuels that do not compete with growing crops for food.
The proposed 7% limit is part of a goal to get 10% of transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020.
Initially, the European Union backed biofuels to contribute to efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and EU dependence on imported oil and gas.
But research has since shown that making fuel out of crops such as maize displaces other crops, forces the clearing of valuable habitats, and can inflate food prices.