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For Immediate Release
11 April 2008

Groups Condemn Biofuels as “False Solution” During Brazil’s President Lula Tour of the Netherlands and Czech Republic

(Joint Release from Global Forest Coalition and Corporate Europe Observatory)

The Netherlands –Criticism is mounting denouncing Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s visit this week to the Netherlands and the Czech Republic on a tour focused on promoting ethanol and other biofuels. The Brazilian president is visiting The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam and will meet with Dutch Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

Although Brazilian presidential spokesman Marcelo Baumbach said that Lula will tell European leaders that bio-fuels are “a cleaner alternative that causes less harm to the environment,” [1] others have differing opinions.

“Even amidst the undeniable evidence of negative impacts of biofuel production, the Brazilian Government continues to present their ethanol program as a ‘special success,” proclaimed Camila Moreno from Terra de Direitos. “In reality Brazil seeks to profit from an export industry which has little to do with real concern about climate. While promoting themselves as ‘green’, the government has meanwhile allocated 65% of the moneys earmarked for the energy sector within the Growth Acceleration Plan (PAC) to oil and gas industries.”

“The claim that agrofuels (biofuels) cause less harm to the environment misses the point of the devastating impacts agrofuels have,” stated Nina Holland of the Dutch research and campaigning organisation Corporate Europe Observatory. “Agrofuels are a false solution to climate change and not only will they exacerbate the climate crisis, agrofuels compete with agricultural resources, threatening the food security of the world’s poorest communities, increasing deforestation, as well as threatening biodiversity and land rights.” [2]

“Spurred by the possibility of a rich market for ethanol investors — many of them foreign — have been buying tracts of land in Brazil, pushing up prices and driving away the small-scale family-based farms that supply up to 60 percent of the country’s food”, added Lucia Schild Ortiz of Friends of the Earth Brazil.

“Brazil has chosen to ignore a vast mountain of evidence that agrofuels are contributing to hunger and climate change,” said Dr. Rachel Smolker, main author of “The Real Cost of Agrofuels”  [3] and lead Agrofuels Campaigner for Global Forest Coalition and Global Justice Ecology Project. “The bottom line is that there is a limited amount of land available, a large population to feed and a desperate need to preserve remaining biodiverse ecosystems. Instead of focusing on improving efficiency and reducing consumption, Brazil is advocating further destruction.

Baumbach stressed the biofuels issue, but noted that Lula will also seek to deepen cooperation with the Netherlands on other issues including ports and maritime transport, education, culture and water.

According to the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, the Netherlands became one of the
main foreign investors in recent years in Brazil. In 2007, the Netherlands
topped the list with direct investment of 8.1 billion dollars, some 23.6
percent of the total received by Brazil.

Touting the Lula tour, Netherland’s Leudal Trading Company reports that
Dutcham, the Dutch Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, is involved “behind the
curtains”, in assisting the Dutch employers´organisation VNO-NCW with the
setting up of a round-table session with important business leaders in the
bilateral relation between Brazil and the Netherlands. [4]

In related news:
On Tuesday, 15 April, groups across the United Kingdom will be holding
protests against the government’s decision to introduce mandatory biofuel blending.
This includes a demonstration outside Downing Street, as well as protests
outside the constituency offices of Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for
Transport, and Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, and
outside several fuel stations. From 15th April, all diesel and petrol in the UK will
have to be blended with biofuels. [5]

Yolanda Sikking, Global Forest Coalition, 0031 623913217
Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory, 0031 630285042