Biofuels - Apr 30
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Biotech Bets on Agrofuels
Carmelo Ruiz Marrero, Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)
There is a new participant in the international deliberations on global warming and agrofuels: the biotechnology industry. The corporate giants of the genetics industry propose new technologies, including genetically modified trees, second generation cellulosic ethanol, and synthetic biology, to wean society off fossil fuels and fight climate change.
The implications for Latin America are breathtaking. The biotechnology industry's massive move into the energy sector brings together major social and ecological issues in the region, such as agrofuel promotion, genetically modified (GM) crops, and the growth of agribusiness monocultures. Latin American civil society's aspirations of land reform, environmental protection, alternatives to neoliberalism, and food and energy sovereignty, are at stake.
Biotechnology companies have become some of the main movers in promoting the use of farm crops like corn, soy, and sugar cane to make fuel for motor vehicles. Faced with increasing public resistance to human consumption of their GM crops, the biotech industry sees its salvation in the production of GM agrofuels. By portraying GM crops as the answer to climate change and resource depletion caused by fossil fuels, they hope to cast a more favorable light on biotech plants.
They have a lot at stake...
(24 April 2008)
Cuba's Fidel Castro warned of food crisis a year ago
Marc Frank, Reuters
As global fears about food security mount with riots in Africa and panic buying elsewhere, one world figure can sit back and say he warned a year ago of a coming food crisis -- Fidel Castro.
Cuba's ailing revolutionary has not appeared in public since he underwent intestinal surgery in July 2006 from which he has never fully recovered.
He finally retired as president in February but from his sickbed he has been writing columns on world affairs since March 2007, when he launched an attack on the biofuels policy of his ideological enemy, the United States, saying it was pushing up food prices and threatening global famine.
"More than three billion people in the world are being condemned to a premature death from hunger and thirst," Castro wrote in his first column.
"It is not an exaggeration; this is rather a conservative figure," he wrote, criticizing plans to turn food crops into fuel as a "sinister idea" hatched by the Bush administration and the U.S. auto industry.
... Instead of biofuels based on food crops, Castro has proposed that the world follow an "energy revolution" he launched in Cuba in 2005 when oil prices were still relatively low.
... Castro, one of the world's best known critics of consumerism, has advised countries such as China, India and Brazil to avoid disaster by not copying what he sees as wasteful U.S. patterns of consumption.
"I think that reducing and recycling all fuel and electricity operated engines is an urgent and elemental necessity of all humanity," he wrote in his first column.
(28 April 2008)
Fidel was one of many voices expressing doubt about corn ethanol. Other skeptics included libertarians, environmentalists and food activists. -BA
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