Via Campesina position on biofuels

June 25, 2008 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

Check also Oxfam report Another Inconvenient Truth

and previous article Food security: below and to the left

24th June 2008

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?

A new alliance of some governments with automotive and chemical
companies, oil and agro-industry is promoting agrofuels with the sole
objective of making money. The fear of climate change and energy
crisis is used to develop agrofuel production in a manner that
maintains and strengthens an agro-industrial model. Knowing that
this model is, in itself, a major cause of climate change and an
intensive energy consumer, is no obstacle.

Technology and market control of the TNCs strengthen and increase
their hold over the agrarian sector. The family farmers whose food
production has been based on traditional seeds, are displaced, their
coexistence with biodiversity, their way of producing energy by human
and animal force are disrupted. Their way of life uses much less
energy per unit of food produced, and specially, fewer fossil fuels.

Agribusiness companies are aware that agrofuels produced on a large
scale are not economically viable. The race towards agrofuels is
made possible by the huge direct and indirect subsidies from
supporting governments and by speculation on the financial markets,
which is also causing food prices to rise.

The figures cited are alarming. Millions of hectares and billions of
dollars are mentioned: the government of India is contemplating
planting 14 million hectares with “jatrofa”, the Inter-American Bank
of Development says that Brazil has 120 million hectares ready for
agrofuel production and a business lobby suggests that there are 397
million hectares available in 15 African countries. This means a
level of expropriations without precedent.

While TNCs and investment funds increase their profits, a large part
of the world population does not have enough money to buy food.
Agrofuels are estimated to be responsible for 30% of the current food
price crisis.

When the TNCs are unable to find farmland for agrofuel production,
deforestation is forced on areas that are necessary for the
preservation of life on earth.

Thousands of farmers have no alternative but to accept to grow
agrofuels as they need an income to support themselves till the next
season. National and international agricultural policies imposed by
international financial institutions and TNCs have exacerbated the
dependence of developing countries, leading to food crisis, extreme
poverty, and hunger throughout the world. Therefore, those small
farmers are not guilty of making the wrong choice they are the
victims of the current system imposed on them.

Small farmers and agricultural workers, working in extremely harsh
conditions with damaging effects on their health, with very poor
income have no say in the way their production is used. Many are
working under contract farming with large agribusiness companies that
process, refine and sell the product. Therefore it is the companies
who decide to channel the produce to the fuel rather than to the food
market. The high food prices paid by the consumers are not reflected
in the small farmers’ income.

In response to energy crisis: small scale production and local

Small scale sustainable farming is essential to feed the world.
Sustainable family farming and food sovereignty consume up to 80 times
less energy than industrial agriculture.

Food sovereignty primarily involves the use of local resources for
food production, minimizing imports of raw materials as well as
transport. Likewise, the food produced is consumed locally so that
the end product does not travel far. It is not logical to eat, in
Europe, aspargus coming all the way from the Altiplano or fresh green
beans coming from Kenya.

Throughout the history of farming, villagers have obtained energy
from their farmland to meet their daily needs. Peasant families are
using coconut or sunflower oil, biogas, firewood, wind and water to
generate electricity for local use. Such methods are sustainable and
integrated into the food production cycle on the farmland.

It is imperative to design and adopt responsible attitudes to food
consumption and to adjust our way of eating, in the knowledge that the
industrial model of production and consumption is destructive, while
the peasant-based model of production uses responsible energy

Therefore, Via Campesina continues its struggle against the power of
large corporations and supporting political systems. The energy
crisis should not be seen as an isolated problem but as part of the
whole crisis of the current model of development where profit has
priority over people.

Instead, we support a people centered, small-scale diversified
agriculture with local markets and healthy livelihoods using less
energy and less dependent on external sources. Sustainable family
farmers fulfill the fundamental mission of agriculture: to feed

Via Campesina denounces:

+ The neoliberal model, international financial institutions and
transnational capital, directly responsible for the food and the
climate crisis.

+ The irresponsible presentation of agrofuels as an answer to the
climate and energy crisis

+ The scandal of producing agrofuels in a world ravaged by hunger.

+ The passive attitude of many institutions faced with the serious
risk posed by the advent of agrofuels which implies that rural and
urban populations can neither produce nor consume food.

+ That these same institutions are in fact placing the economic
interests of TNCs above the food and nutritional needs of the very
people they are entrusted to represent and defend.

+ The insult of continuing to promote agrofuels in spite of the
negative energy balance in their production, processing, and

+ The neoliberal model, international financial institutions and
transnational capital, directly responsible for the food and the
climate crisis.

Via Campesina demands:

The end of corporate driven, monoculture- based production of
agrofuels. As a first step, a five year international moratorium on
the production, trade and consumption of industrial agrofuels has to
be immediately declared.

An in-depth evaluation of social and environment cost of the agrofuel
boom and of profits made by TNCs in the processing and trade of the
raw materials.

The promotion and development of small scale production and local
consumption models and the rejection of consumerism

Explicit support from governments and institutions to the sustainable
peasant-based model of food production and distribution, with its
minimal use of energy, its capacity to create jobs, to respect
cultural and biological diversity and its positive effect on global
warming (fertile soils are the best way to capture CO2).

The reorientation of agricultural policies towards sustainable rural
communities and livelihoods based on food sovereignty and genuine
agrarian reform.

The promotion and development of responsible consumption models.

Let’s put out the fire of agrofuels and carry the flame of food


Entry filed under: Climate change & Communities, Corporate Accountability, Food Sovereignity and Security, Indigenous People & Neoliberalism, Indigenous Resistance, Rights, and Survival.

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