Gallagher’s Support of Second Generation Biofuels will Still Compete with Food and will Destroy the World’s Forests [Review on Biofuels Criticised]

7 July 2008

Gallagher’s Support of Second Generation Biofuels will Still Compete with Food and will Destroy the World’s Forests  [Review on Biofuels Criticised]

– The Global Forest Coalition, a worldwide coalition of environmental NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations, welcomes the conclusion by the Renewable
Fuels Agency’s Gallagher review that the introduction of biofuels should be significantly slowed until adequate controls to address displacement effects are implemented and are demonstrated to be effective. However, GFC issues a strong warning and caution regarding the Gallagher review’s argument that sustainability criteria and second generation biofuels can help solve the social and environmental problems currently caused by food-based agrofuels.  [1]

The review [2], chaired by the UK’s professor Ed Gallagher, is expected to cause Britain and the European Union to rethink their positions on agrofuels, now that it is coming to light that agrofuels derived from food crops are contributing to skyrocketing food prices and world hunger. [3]

“If the Gallagher review triggers a re-examination of EU and British policy, that’s good, but anything less than a complete halt to agrofuel production and government targets, incentives and subsidies which support it, will still have devastating effects on the food crisis, biodiversity and climate change”, stated Almuth Ernsting from the UK’s Biofuelwatch. “Unfortunately, the review does not support such a moratorium. The last thing we need is yet another plea for sustainability standards that are impossible to meet and completely fail to address the many indirect impacts of agrofuel production. Even worse, the Gallagher review sides with many Members of the European Parliament, suggesting that the problems with agrofuels can be avoided with so-called ‘second generation agrofuels’ “.

Dr. Miguel Lovera, Chairperson of the Global Forest Coalition states: “Here in South America the direct and indirect impacts of agrofuels are already devastating: the past two years we have seen a massive increase in deforestation rates in the Amazon, the cerrado, the Chaco, the Atlantic forest, and other precious ecosystems, and the destruction of Indigenous lands and traditional farmer’s communities.  Switching to wood fibre feedstock for second generation fuels is not the answer. They will still compete with hungry people for land, but they will also sound the death knell for forests, and will exacerbate biodiversity loss and climate change. The world needs to come to grips with underlying problems like over-consumption by the gluttonous global north.”

“One of the greatest threats from ‘second generation’ agrofuels is the manufacture of trees and microbes genetically engineered specifically to produce agrofuels”, [4] stated Anne Petermann, Co-Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and North American Focal Point for the Global Forest Coalition. “Not only will agricultural lands and forests continue to be colonized for agrofuel monocultures, deforestation rates will escalate and the world’s remaining native forests will be devastated by the release of destructive GE tree pollen and seeds. Everyone loses except the agrofuel industry”, she concluded.

For more information, please contact:

In the UK:  Ronnie Hall, campaigns coordinator, Global Forest Coalition, + 1243 602756, +44 7967 017281 (mobile)

In North America: Orin Langelle, media coordinator, Global Forest Coalition, office tel: +1.802.482.2689 +1.802.578.6980 (mobile)

In, Paraguay: Dr Miguel Lovera, mobile tel: +595-971-201957 (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian)

Notes:

[1] Studies from the University of Iowa, for example, show that switchgrass would increase competition for food above what is occurring with corn ethanol because it requires a lot of room and land will be turn over to it if it is profitable.  Source: Crop Based Biofuel Production under Acreage Constraints and Uncertainty, Mindy L. Baker, Dermot J Hayes and Bruce A Babcock Working Paper 08-WP-460, February 2008, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University

Click to access paper_12870.pdf

[2] Critics claim that this has not been an open consultation, or an independent review. It’s been carried out by the Renewable Fuels Agency, which was set up by the UK government with the specific remit of implementing the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation.  The board members other than Gallagher are Greg Archer, Director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, the stakeholder forum which wrote the blueprint for the UK biofuel legislation and aims to promote biofuels, Gareth Llewellyn of the National Grid (who have direct ties with Blue NG, the companies wanting to build the agrofuel CHP plants here), Paul Jefferiss of BP and Brian White, director of BionerG Ltd. See : http://www.autoindustry.co.uk/press_releases/05-11-07) .  The RFA were allowed to choose their own ‘experts’.

[3] Switching to non food cellulose crops will not resolve the problems of agrofuels competing with food as all crops require land, water and fertilizer. Land will be switched over from producing food to fuel crops if it is profitable. Competition for access to land is intensifying, and will only worsen; in South America alone over 500 farmer’s movement and Indigenous leaders have been killed during violent conflicts over land since 2000. A recent report by Friends of the Earth Europe clearly linked oilpalm expansion in Indonesia with serious human rights violations. http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/losingground.pdf  In the US there already is pressure to open up conservation reserve program lands and to harvest increasing amounts of wood from forests.

[4] Second generation technologies are hampered by the difficulties of accessing sugars in cellulose. The solutions being offered involve use of genetically engineered and synthetically derived microbes as well as trees and other crops. The biosafety risks these present are completely unknown. http://www.etcgroup.org/en/materials/publications.html?pub_id=602
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