VIA CAMPESINA Position Paper Regarding Agrofuels

[Note: At the May 2008 UN Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties, Global Justice Ecology Project worked together with Via Campesina on the issue of agrofuels and their impacts on small farmers and the environment. During the CBD COP, Via Campesina announced that they were launching a new campaign against GE trees due to industry’s promotion of GE trees as a new source for so-called ‘second generation’ cellulosic agrofuels.  elow is the Via Campesina statement on the impacts of agrofuels.]

The current massive wave of investment in energy production based on cultivating and industrial processing of vegetal materials like corn, soy, palm oil, sugar cane, canola, etc, will neither solve the climate crisis nor the energy crisis. It will also bring disastrous social and environmental consequences. It creates a new and very serious threat to food production by small farmers and to the attainment of food sovereignty for the world population.

Over the last twenty years the neoliberal policies adopted globally have failed to answer people’s basic needs. The FAO promises at the 1996 World Food Summit and the UN Millenium Development Goals to lift people out of poverty have not been kept. Many more people are suffering form hunger.

It is claimed that agrofuels will help fight climate change. In reality, the opposite is true. The new extensive monoculture plantations for the production of agrofuels are increasing greenhouse gases through deforestation, drainage of wetlands, and dismantling communal lands. If we take into account the whole cycle of production, transformation, distribution of agrofuels, they do not produce less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels, except in some cases. Moreover, agrofuels will never be able to replace fossil fuels. According to the latest estimates, they will only cover the future rise in consumption from now until 2020. There is simply not enough land in the world to generate all the fuel necessary for an industrial society whose needs for transport of people and goods are continually increasing. The promise of agrofuels creates the illusion that we can continue to consume energy at an ever growing rate. The only answer to the threat of climate change is to reduce energy use worldwide, and to redirect international trade towards local markets.

Meanwhile, the social and ecological impacts of agrofuel development will be devastating. Monoculture and industrial agriculture, whether for agrofuel or any other production, are destroying land, forests, water and biodiversity. They drive family farmers, men and women, off their land. It is estimated that five million farmers have been expelled from their land to create space for monocultures in Indonesia; five million in Brazil, four million in Colombia… Industrial agriculture generates much less employment than sustainable family farming; this is an agriculture without farmers.

The current expansion of agrofuel production contributes to the massive concentration of capital by landowners, large companies and TNCs, provoking a real counter land reform throughout the world. Moreover it contributes to increased speculation on food products and land prices.

Agrofuel production has already started to replace food production. Its ongoing extension will drive even more small scale farmers and indigenous peoples off their lands. Instead of dedicating land and water to food production, these resources are being diverted to produce energy in the form of diesel and ethanol. Today peasants and small farmers, indigenous people, women and men, produce the huge majority of the food consumed worldwide.  If not prevented now, agrofuels will occupy our lands and food will become even more scarce and expensive.

Who would eat agrofuels?

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