USA: Call for a moratorium
Environmental and Human Rights Groups call for a Biofuels (Agrofuels) Moratorium
For Immediate Release Contact: Cameron Scott of RAN 415.659.0541
Contact: Eric Holt-Gimenez of Food First 510-654-4400 ext 227.
January 29, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO – Representatives from Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Student Trade Justice Campaign, Food First, Global Justice Ecology, and Grassroots International today called for a moratorium on all incentives and renewable fuels targets for agrofuels in pending federal energy legislation until standards can be developed to ensure that plant-based fuels such as biodiesel show significant environmental benefits over fossil fuels, and that they do not contribute to world hunger or human rights abuses. Citing environmental and human rights abuses linked to industrial biofuels production, groups announce opposition to federal agrofuels targets and incentives
The announcement, made at a press conference in front of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) San Francisco office, signaled the first formal opposition to the federal government’s push for agrofuels as a solution to the climate crisis. Also supporting the moratorium was Rafael Alegría, former president of Via Campesina, the largest family farmers’ organization in the world. More than 35 organizations around the world have signed on to the call for a U.S. moratorium.
As demand for agrofuels has grown in recent years, large-scale production has led to deforestation of the world’s rainforests, higher food prices, and widespread human rights abuses. Producing palm oil, one of the most popular sources of biodiesel, entails so much deforestation that, over its lifecycle, palm-based biodiesel can emit up to 10 times more carbon dioxide per gallon than gasoline. As industrial agrofuels plantations expand, they also displace subsistence farms and Indigenous communities. The United Nations has predicted that as many as 5 million Indigenous people worldwide could be adversely affected by the continued expansion of agrofuels. In recent weeks, the United Nations and the European Union have expressed reservations about widespread use of agrofuels.
Agribusiness giants ADM and Cargill have lobbied aggressively for government targets and subsidies for agrofuels. An ADM subsidiary, the Wilmar Group, is the largest producer of palm-based biodiesel in the world and is clearing tropical rainforests in Indonesia that are among the last remaining habitats of the endangered orangutan. Cargill is pushing palm oil production into Papua New Guinea, home of the world’s third largest intact rainforest. Cargill also operates an illegal soy port in the Brazilian city of Santarem, in the heart of the Amazon. Deforestation rates have doubled in the region since the port opened. Soy is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon, and ADM, Cargill and U.S. agribusiness Bunge account for 60 percent of its funding.
Mike Brune, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network, said: “Politicians paint agrofuels as the fuels of the future. But the fuels of the future shouldn’t emit more greenhouse gases than gasoline, degrade priceless ecosystems, and force people off their land. The future demands better solutions.”
Eric Holt Gimenez, Executive Director of Food First, said: “The side effects of biofuels—the rise in food costs, shrinking water tables, deforestation and displacement of rural people—are rarely discussed. The question is not whether ethanol and biodiesel have a place in our future, but whether or not we allow a handful of global corporations to transform our food and fuel systems, destroy the planet’s biodiversity and impoverish the countryside.”
Nikhil Aziz, Executive Director of Grassroots International, said: “This new ‘green rush’ is a reckless race towards disaster – one that endangers food security for millions, while doing little to help stem the negative impacts of climate change. We have the science and the resources needed for real solutions, we just need the politicians to climb their way out of corporate pockets.”
Lorena Rodriguez organizer with the Student Trade Justice Campaign, said: “We support this moratorium because we believe that industrial agriculture, core to the agenda in free trade and investment agreements continue to serve the interest of large agribusinesses at the expense of the livelihoods of small farmers and indigenous people throughout the world.”
Rachel Smolker of the Global Justice Ecology Project said: “Proponents of biofuels claim that the problems created by using food crops will be solved when the next generation of cellulosic technologies becomes viable, but as the chair of our House Agriculture Committee stated just a few days ago, that may not happen for 10 years, if ever. Those technologies depend heavily on biotechnology like genetically engineered trees, which could contaminate native forests with unpredictable and irreversible consequences.”