Another False Solution to Climate Change
Why Do We Need a Second Look at Agrofuels?
1) Agrofuels are creating competition between food for people and fuel for cars, leading to skyrocketing grain prices and increasing numbers of people who cannot afford to eat. As one example, the amount of grain needed to create enough ethanol to fill the tank of a single SUV could feed one person for an entire year. There simply isn’t enough grain to feed all of the people and all of the cars.
2) The increasing demand for land for agrofuel plantations is causing deforestation and destruction of some of the last and largest primeval forests, which are being logged and burned to clear land for these agrofuel plantations. In Indonesia, millions of acres of primordial rainforest are at stake. The government plans to clear vast tracts of this forest for oil palm plantations for biodiesel for export to Europe, threatening the existence of wildlife including orangutans, rhinoceros and tigers.
3) The logging and burning of forests for agrofuel plantations releases huge quantities of greenhouse gases which are unlikely to be offset by the agrofuels created from the crops grown on these former forest lands. The burning of the forests of Indonesia each year (largely for oil palm plantations) makes it the world’s third largest producer of global carbon emissions, even though most of the population lives in poverty.
4) Indigenous peoples who depend on forests for food, medicine, shelter, livelihoods, or culture are being forcibly displaced from their lands to make room for agrofuel plantations.
6) The biotechnology industry is using rising demand for agrofuel as a new way to sell their highly unpopular, unpredictable and problematic genetic engineering technology. Synthetic biology (the manufacture of completely synthetic organisms for specific functions) is one of the key components of transforming the cellulose locked in trees into liquid fuels
The other component is engineering the trees themselves to be more easily digested. ArborGen is genetically engineering trees for release in the Southeast US and Brazil that have specifically been modified to produce cellulosic ethanol. There is even research going on to engineer trees with special enzymes in them that actually enable the tree to start to digest itself prior to harvest.
7) Studies on the risks of releasing GE trees into the environment in plantations are virtually non-existent. However, the escape of engineered pollen and seeds from these plantations into native forests up to hundreds of miles away is inevitable and irreversible. The results of this genetic contamination are predicted to be very serious both for humans and wildlife.