Why despite ten years of accumulating evidence on the social and environmental cost of agrofuels, does the European Commission persist with its failed policies? An analysis of the EU's bioeconomy vision, how it is fuelling land grabs in Africa, the agrofuels lobby that drives policy, and the alternative visions for energy that are being ignored.
On the eve of the new millennium, the EU embarked upon a major agroenergy and bioeconomy experiment. More than ten years on, the evidence from science, academia, and grassroots voices is clear: most of the claims initially made for agroenergy as a truly renewable alternative to fossil fuels are flawed. Worst of all, the creation of an EU market for industrial agrofuels has been shown to have a negative impact on the land and resource rights, livelihoods, and food security of local populations, especially in the global South. Our primary obligation in Europe is to reduce energy consumption, in particular that which has an impact on other regions, and change our current energy dense development model. Agroenergy does not qualify as renewable energy and the EU agroenergy policy framework should therefore be dismantled.
This brief report looks at how governments, international finance institutions and global corporations are collaborating in major new projects in Africa (currently in Mozambique and Tanzania) to reorder land and water use and create industrial infrastructure over millions of hectares in order to ensure sustained supplies of commodities and profits for markets. The Corridors concept first emerged at the World Economic Forum and a number of major corporations are involved. African Agricultural Growth Corridors are described as development opportunities, especially for small farmers, but are likely to be most advantageous to corporations and client governments. They have the backing of international institutions including the World Economic Forum, the G8 and G20 groups of the major global economies, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Bank. More recently many of the same players have come together to create the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which promises to reinforce and extend the Corridor concept.
The report is divided into three parts, 1) an introduction to the Corridors and the New Alliance and who is behind them, 2) the corridors themselves, and 3) the potential impacts.
by Helena Paul, Almuth Ernsting, Stella Semino, Susanne Gura & Antje Lorch
EcoNexus, Biofuelwatch, Grupo de Reflexion Rural, NOAH - Friends of the Earth Denmark, and The Development Fund Norway
Few would deny that agriculture is especially severely affected by climate change and that the right practices contribute to mitigate it, yet expectations of the new climate agreement diverge sharply, as well as notions on what are good and what are bad agricultural practices and whether soil carbon sequestration should be part of carbon trading.
Transformation-Induced Mutations in Transgenic Crop Plants
by Allison Wilson, PhD, Jonathan Latham, PhD and Ricarda Steinbrecher, PhD
Internationally, safety regulations of transgenic (genetically modified or GM) crop plants focus primarily on the potential hazards of specific transgenes and their products (e.g. allergenicity of the B. thuringiensis cry3A protein). This emphasis on the transgene and its product is a feature of the case-by-case approach to risk assessment. The case-by-case approach effectively assumes that plant transformation methods (the techniques used to introduce recombinant DNA into a plant) carry no inherent risk. Nevertheless, current crop plant transformation methods typically require tissue culture (i.e. regeneration of an intact plant from a single cell that has been treated with hormones and antibiotics and forced to undergo abnormal developmental changes) and either infection with a pathogenic organism (A. tumefaciens) or bombardment with tungsten particles. It would therefore not be surprising if plant transformation resulted in significant genetic consequences which were unrelated to the nature of the specific transgene. Indeed, both tissue culture and transgene insertion have been used as mutagenic agents (Jain 2001, Krysan et al. 1999).
An overview of risk assessment and risk management issues
by Ricarda A. Steinbrecher and Antje Lorch
Trees differ in a number of important characteristics from field crops, and these characteristics are also relevant for any risk assessment of genetically engineered (GE) trees. A review of the scientific literature shows that due to the complexity of trees as organisms with large habitats and numerous interactions, currently no meaningful and sufficient risk assessment of GE trees is possible, and that especially a trait-specific risk assessment is not appropriate. Both scientific literature and in-field experience show that contamination by and dispersal of GE trees will take place. Transgenic sterility is not an option to avoid the potential impacts posed by GE trees and their spread. Regulation of trees on a national level will not be sufficient because due to the large-scale dispersion of reproductive plant material, GE trees are likely to cross national borders. All this makes GE trees a compelling case for the application of the precautionary principle.
The Genetic Engineering of the World’s Leading Staple Crop
by Ricarda A. Steinbrecher
"Rice is the world's most consumed staple food grain, with half the world's people depending on it. It is harvested on about 146 million hectares, representing 10 per cent of global arable land. The yield is reported as 535 million tons per year and 91 per cent is produced by Asian farmers, especially in China and India (55 per cent of the total)."
Rice is not just a daily source of calories - it is intrinsically linked to Asian lifestyles and heritage. Present indigenous and local varieties are the product of centuries of breeding and selection by farmers to produce rice suitable to their environment and needs.
Co-published by Biofuelwatch, Carbon Trade Watch / Transnational Institute, Corporate Europe Observatory, EcoNexus, Ecoropa, Grupo de Reflexión Rural, Munlochy Vigil, NOAH (Friends of the Earth Denmark), Rettet den Regenwald, Watch Indonesia
This document focuses on particular types of ‘biofuel’ which we prefer to call agrofuel because of the intensive, industrial way it is produced, generally as monocultures, often covering thousands of hectares, most often in the global South.
by EcoNexus and the Federation of German Scientists; lead author: Ricarda A. Steinbrecher, PhD
This paper describes in brief the concepts and design behind Terminator technology or Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURTs) in language accessible to non-scientists. It details the different elements that are theoretically required to assemble gene sequences designed to prevent the germination of seeds.
How producing RR soya is destroying the food security and sovereignty of Argentina
by Lilian Joensen, Stella Semino, Grupo de Reflexión Rural, Argentina and Helena Paul, EcoNexus
This case study explains why Argentina began to grow genetically engineered RR soya and why its cultivation has spread so rapidly to more than 14 million hectares (ha) in 2003-4. It looks at the role that Argentina adopted in the 19th Century as an exporter of raw materials and a target for foreign investment. Other factors touched on include the massive accumulation of debt, economic collapse, financial speculation, capital flight and structural adjustment imposed by the Menem government (1989-99) according to instructions from international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.