Sober Warning on Agrofuels
There has been increased focus on agrofuels, or biofuels, and their contribution as a solution for the pressing problem of climate change. The use of agricultural crops to produce energy is seen as a viable alternative to petroleum fuels, particularly given rising oil prices and ultimately limited oil reserves.
However, the NGO
GRAIN warns that this rush is causing enormous environmental and social
damage. Moreover, figures show that the contribution of agrofuels to
combat climate change is not likely to be significant. The large-scale
cultivation of crops for agrofuels will actually make things worse in
many areas, notably
GRAIN also calls into question the model of agro-industrial farming, and the global food system associated with it, whose practices themselves contribute to climate change.
New from GRAIN
NO TO THE AGROFUELS CRAZE!
GRAIN has just published a special issue of Seedling which focuses on biofuels, or as we like to call them, agrofuels - over 30,000 words of in-depth analysis from around the world.
In the process of gathering material from colleagues and social movements around the world, we have discovered that the stampede into agrofuels is causing enormous environmental and social damage, much more than we realized earlier. Precious ecosystems are being destroyed and hundreds of thousands of indigenous and peasant communities are being thrown off their land.
Worse lies ahead: the Indian government is committed to planting 14 million hectares of land with jatropha (an exotic bush from which biodiesel can be manufactured), the Inter-American Development Bank says that Brazil has 120 million hectares available for biofuels, and lobbyists in Europe are speaking of almost 400 million hectares being available for biofuels in 15 African countries. We are talking about expropriation on an unprecedented scale.
We believe that
the prefix bio, which comes from the Greek word for 'life', is entirely
inappropriate for such anti-life devastation. So, following the lead
of non-governmental organisations and social movements in
In this special
issue of Seedling, launched today, we zoom in on the situation in different
parts of the world: Latin America, Asia and
neoliberal, globalised world. Indigenous farming systems, local communities and the biodiversity they manage have to give way to provide for the increased fuel needs of the modern world.
One of the main
justifications for the large-scale cultivation of agrofuels is the need
to combat climate change, but the figures make a mockery of this claim.
According to the
As is spelt out in this special edition, the wide-scale cultivation of agrofuels will actually make things worse in many parts of the world, notably South-east Asia and the Amazon basin where the drying of peat lands and the felling of tropical forest will release far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than will be saved by using agrofuels.
One of the main causes of global warming is agro-industrial farming itself, and the global food system associated with it. Although it is scarcely ever mentioned, farming is responsible for 14 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Within farming, the largest single cause is the use of chemical fertilisers, which introduce a huge amount of nitrogen into the soil, and nitrous oxide into the air. Changing land use (mainly deforestation and thus linked to the expansion of crop monoculture) is responsible for another 18 per cent. And a large part of global transport, which is responsible for a further 14 per cent of emissions, stems from the way in which the agro-industrial complex moves large quantities of food from one continent to another.
It is abundantly clear that we can only halt climate change by challenging the absurdity and the waste of the globalised food system as organised by the transnational corporations. Far from contributing to the solution, biofuels will only make a bad situation worse. GRAIN believes it is time to declare unambiguously 'No to the agrofuels craze!'
Agrofuels resource page: http://www.grain.org/go/agrofuels
SPECIAL ISSUE OF SEEDLING (JULY 2007)
Download the entire Seedling issue in PDF format, or you can download individual articles below. (Note: Articles are only currently available in PDF format - we hope to have HTML versions of these articles in mid-July).
An introductory article that, among other things, looks at the mind-boggling numbers that are being bandied around: the Indian government is talking of planting 14 million hectares of land with jatropha; the Inter-American Development Bank says that Brazil has 120 million hectares that could be cultivated with agrofuel crops; and an agrofuel lobby is speaking of 379 million hectares being available in 15 African countries.
CORPORATE POWER AND THE EXPANSION OF AGRIBUSINESS
A detailed look at the way agrofuels is restructuring agribusiness, with the emergence of new powerful corporate alliances across the globe. Agrofuels are deepening the alliances between transnational capital and local landed elites, with profound consequences for struggles over land and local food production.
and businessmen are pouring in to secure reliable supply chains of agrofuels.
Not only the old colonial powers but new emerging countries, particularly
In no other region
in the world is the absurdity of the frenzied rush into agrofuels more
blatant than in South-east Asia, particularly in
A mosaic of interviews
with leaders of social and popular movements, who analyse what is happening
on their countries and describe their strategies for confronting agrofuels.
A look at the emergence of large-scale biodiesel production in
The volume of recent articles, papers and other materials on agrofuels can be overwhelming. Below we list some that we found particularly useful when preparing this Seedling.