miércoles, noviembre 26, 2008

Social and Environmental Groups Urge No Further Agrofuel Expansion, as Brazil hosts the International Biofuels Conference, Nov 17-21, 2008

November 24,2008, São Paulo, Brazil

The government of Brazil hosted a high profile International Biofuels Conference with over 1000 participants from national governments, international organizations, academia, business and civil society. The purpose of this event was to counter growing skepticism surrounding agrofuels and encourage the expansion of their world market. The European Commission and several EU Member States have been very supportive so far of the international trade in agrofuels. As part of the Renewable Energy Directive, the EU as a whole is proposing targets that will enable agrofuels to contribute 10% of Europe’s transport energy needs by 2020. Countries like Sweden and the Netherlands have also been lobbying hard within the EU to lower the Union’s import tariffs on ethanol in order to favor the import of Brazilian agrofuels. Sweden itself
is temporarily reducing its import tax on ethanol to allow more Brazilian imports to flow into the European market.

Despite having been promoted as a “green” energy sources, agrofuels will not help in the fight against climate change, nor will they free Europe from its oil addiction. Recent evidence of the negative socioeconomic and environmental impacts of agrofuels also raises questions about the sustainability of the commodity itself and of its trade. New evidence based on full life-cycle assessments of agrofuels’ production indicate that agrofuels not only will fail to reduce CO2 emissions, but will lead to an
increase in emissions altogether.1

1. Agrofuels will not solve energy problems in Europe.
Agrofuels are mixed with fossil fuels, and as such provide a way of delaying the search for proper alternatives to fossil fuels in Europe - detracting political attention from more effective solutions to the climate change challenge.

2. Agrofuels undermine people’s right to food in developing countries
As European demand for agrofuels will not be met through domestic production, international investors (including many from Europe) are seeking land, raw materials and labor in developing countries to grow agrofuel crops for exports. Countries including India and the Philippines have already received massive investment from European companies keen to develop agrofuels crops, while countries in Latin America and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region are being targeted for their preferential trade routes (lower import tariffs) to Europe. The conversion of arable and forest land into agrofuel plantations is leading to cases of “land grabbing” in these countries, where rural communities are denied their right to food by being forced off the land they depend on for self-subsistence. Moreover, as rural farmers switch from food crops to crops for fuels, their food security is traded away in favor of volatile financial investment and foreign market demand. The switching of arable land into crops for fuel has also been deemed partly responsible for driving up food prices internationally with a resulting food crisis affecting millions of people around the world.2

3. Agrofuels promote deforestation, agri-chemical use and Genetically Modified crops
Agrofuels are also directly responsible for deforestation in many countries, as land is cleared to make space for agrofuels’ crop development. In the case of Brazil, the expansion of agrofuels is also causing soy plantations to be pushed into the Amazon, illustrating the “indirect” role that agrofuels can also play on forest decimation. In addition to this environmental impact there is the increased use of pesticides and fertilizers involved in the production of agrofuels to bare in mind, as well as the additional environmental pressure that will be exerted as a result of Genetically Modified crops currently being developed for agrofuel use.

4. Sustainability standards are a smokescreen
The European Council of Ministers and the European Parliament have promoted the introduction of criteria as a way of ensuring the “sustainability” of agrofuel production. However, their ability to prevent the social and environmental impacts that result from the expansion of monoculture plantations for agrofuels is questionable. The lack of strict monitoring mechanisms, the weakness of the benchmarks suggested, and the preference given to an industry’s self-regulatory approach, suggests that the criteria will legitimize, rather than prevent, any social and environmental impacts of agrofuels.

Civil society calls for Moratorium
Farmer organizations and social movements in Brazil oppose the expansion of industrial monocultures of sugarcane, soy, and palm oil for agrofuel production because of the negative impacts on small-scale
farmers and the environment. The international peasant movement (Via Campesina) has called on the Brazilian government to introduce a five-year moratorium on agrofuels. Similar calls have also been issued by organizations in Africa and the US to their respective governments.

With this letter more than 200 organizations and hundreds of individuals are calling on the EU to also introduce a moratorium on agrofuels, both in terms of national incentives for agrofuel development of large-scale monocultures (including tree plantations), and on agrofuels imported from outside the EU.

These organizations asked the European Commission and Member States not to take part in the International Biofuel Conference in Brazil between 17-21 November, as the event must not lead to the EU supporting further expansion of agrofuel development.

These 200 organizations specifically oppose:
 The lowering of import tariffs for agrofuels internationally, as this will only increase the international flow of agrofuels and the resulting social and environmental impacts;

 The promotion of cooperation agreements between Brazil and partnering countries aimed at facilitating international investment for agrofuels development, particularly in developing countries already proven by the global food crisis;

 The assumption that currently proposed sustainability criteria are adequate to guarantee the sustainability of agrofuels from large-scale plantations.


1 Searchinger, T., et al. (2008) “Use of US Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change” in Science. March.
2 Ivanic, M., and Martin, W., (2008); ‘Implications of Higher Global Food Prices for Poverty in Low-Income Countries’; Policy Research Working Paper 4594, Washington DC: World Bank.

Declaración a la Conferencia Internacional sobre Biocombustibles en Brasil

São Paulo, Noviembre 2008

Pasados 12 años desde la primera liberación comercial de los cultivos OGMs, la industria biotecnológica NO ha cumplido con la promesa de ‘salvación del hambre en el mundo’, su principal argumento frente a la gran oposición al cultivo de alimentos transgénicos.

Hoy el argumento de la industria es que los transgénicos son una pieza clave para ayudar a solucionar el problema del calentamiento global y del cambio climático. Para eso ahora se promueven los llamados ‘climate-ready crops’, cultivos OGM que serían más resistentes a las sequias, y los cultivos ‘energéticos’, diseñados y destinados a la producción de agrocombustibles y no de alimentos.

Para la industria biotecnológica, los agrocombustibles representan una nueva oportunidad para abrir nuevos mercados e insertarse en países que hasta el momento se han mantenido “libre de transgénicos” con el argumento que estos cultivos no van a entrar en la cadena alimentaria. Al respecto, el presidente Lula afirmó: “(...) una parte del biodiesel será producido a partir de la soya, en vez de que el pueblo coma soya transgénica, nosotros vamos a producir biodiesel de la transgenica, … el carro no lo rechazará, no existe ningún problema , y la gente va a comer la soya buena.[1]

En el 2007, en Estados Unidos se destinaron 7 millones de hectáreas de maíz transgénico para la producción de etanol y cerca de 3,4 millones de hectáreas de soya RR para agrodiesel; a esto se suman las más de 55 mil hectáreas de canola transgénica para agrodiesel en Estados Unidos y Canadá. La producción de agrodiesel podría representar hasta el 25% del consumo total de aceite de soya en Argentina, Brasil, Estados Unidos y la Unión Europea en septiembre de 2008. La soya RR cubre extensas áreas en Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay y se está extendiendo a Brasil.

La caña de azucar, el principal cultivo para la producción de etanol, es objeto de manipulación transgénica y recientemente fue declarada por la Monsanto ‘un commodity global, al lado de la soya, del maíz y del algodón’; ese nuevo status para la caña fue anunciado en la primera semana de noviembre, cuando la Monsanto compro por US$ 290 millones de dólares las empresas de biotecnología brasileñas con investigaciones más avanzadas para la producción de caña de azúcar y de eucalipto transgenico: CanaVialis y Alellyx (antes propiedad de Votorantin, conglomerado industrial y celulósico brasileño). Con esta adquisición, Brasil se consolida como centro mundial de investigación de caña para Monsanto y lidera los experimentos para agrocombustibles de segunda generación. Teniendo en cuenta el papel de Brasil en promover su modelo de etanol a otros países, consideramos que esto podría transformar los países de América Latina, el caribe y África en grandes zonas de monocultivos de caña de azúcar y eucaliptos transgénicos, para alimentar la industria automovilística mundial, y a medio plazo la cadena emergente de ‘bioplasticos’.

Nosotros de la RALLT y del African Center for Biosafety, entendemos estos graves problemas, por ello rechazamos la promoción de transgénicos para energía. La demanda de producción masiva de biomasa para energía, constituye un cambio estructural sobre la agricultura y un avance de la amenaza transgénica sobre la biodiversidad y soberanía alimentaria de los pueblos.

No aceptamos las falsas soluciones que se presentan a los graves problemas del planeta y de la humanidad: el hambre y el cambio climático son asuntos que exigen cambios estructurales en nuestra sociedad y economía, empezando exige redireccionar urgentemente el fallido modelo agroindustrial petro-dependiente y la urbanización insostenible. No reconocemos el modelo que está destruyendo el planeta, el clima, la biodiversidad y todo el patrimonio natural, atentando contra las bases de la soberanía alimentaria de nuestros pueblos.

Por lo tanto:
· Rechazamos este nuevo intento de querer transformarnos en un nuevo patio trasero de las empresas biotecnológicas, petroleras y automovilísticas.
· Rescatamos nuestro derecho a decidir soberanamente qué, cuando y para que usar nuestros territorios
· Hacemos un llamado a la sociedad civil organizada a iniciar un camino hacia una sociedad post-petrolera, libre de transgénicos, libre de toda tecnología que promueve dependencia y demandamos que se recupere una producción a escala humana.

[1] www.info.planalto.gov.br/download/discursos/PR840.DOC

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