1.The EU's agrofuel folly: policy capture by corporate interests
2.The come back of the biotech industry
NOTE: Superb report, clearly written and well worth reading in full.
1.The EU's agrofuel folly: policy capture by corporate interests
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), 1 June 2007
Despite growing public concern about the social and environmental risks associated to agrofuels (more frequently referred to as biofuels) and their problematic climate impacts, the European Union is throwing its weight behind the promotion of these often very harmful crops. In March 2007, the European Commission proposed targets to increase the use of agrofuels in all road transport fuel to 10 percent by 2020. The Commission is also planning to channel large amounts of EU funds towards the research & development to boost the use of agrofuels.
A new CEO report uncovers how the EU's promotion of agrofuels has been heavily influenced by corporate interests, including car manufacturers, biotech companies and the oil industry. On the invitation of the European Commission, these industries have steered EU policy on agrofuels through industry-dominated advisory bodies such as the Advisory Research Council for Biofuels (BIOFRAC) and the European Biofuels Technology Platform (EBFTP).
Read the full report at: http://www.corporateeurope.org/agrofuelfolly.html
For more information about EU agrofuels and climate change policies, see:
2.The EU's agrofuel folly: policy capture by corporate interests
Briefing paper, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), June 2007 http://www.corporateeurope.org/agrofuelfolly.html
The come back of the biotech industry
The main European biotech lobby group, EuropaBio, was a member of BIOFRAC [the Advisory Research Council for Biofuels] and is also an active member of the EBFTP [the European Biofuels Technology Platform]. As EuropaBio's secretary general Johan Vanhemelrijck explains "We have worked hard to establish excellent working relations with the Commission and our close involvement with the new Biofuels Technology Platform is one of the fruits of this."
The biotech industry hopes to overcome the fierce public resistance to GM crops, by developing 'improved' crops for agrofuel production. Growing public concern for climate change and the green label that still attaches itself to agrofuel development could offer the biotech 'fix' an opportunity for more PR success that in the past. Genetically engineered crops that are rejected for food, may be more publicly acceptable if they are providing fuel for passenger cars in a way that is promoted as more 'climate friendly'. Messaging from EuropaBio reflects this new discourse. They talk about how biotechnology is 'climate friendly', and more than this it will drive expansion of the global economy, increase wealth while reducing humankind's environmental footprint, reduce dependence on oil imports and provide an income stream for farmers. Their new buzzword is the 'bio-based economy', "a term which encapsulates our vision of a future society no longer wholly dependent on fossil fuels for energy and industrial raw materials... The whole world is now in transition from the Age of Chemistry to the Age of Biotechnology".
Yet, the negative impacts already associated with large-scale monoculture containing genetically engineered crops will be exacerbated by the large expansion of agrofuels. GM contamination is likely to increase and become more complex, when food crops are engineered with traits designed for non-food purposes. Currently, GM crops are mainly for animal feed, and the same corporations that control these crops and inputs for animal feed are the ones set to benefit from their use for agrofuels.
According to Berkeley professor Miguel Altieri and Food First executive director Eric Holt-Gimenez, the agrofuel agenda offers biotech companies like Monsanto "the opportunity to irreversibly convert agriculture to genetically engineered crops. Presently 52% of corn, 89% of soy and 50% of canola in the US is genetically modified (GM)." The authors argue that "the expansion of corn genetically tailored for special ethanol processing plants will remove all practical barriers to the permanent contamination of all non-GMO crops."
In the EU consumer resistance has to a large extent kept GM crops out. With agrofuels, the biotech industry has a chance to gain access by the back door, presenting GM crops as energy crops, not food crops. However, the risks of contamination to non-GM crops remain. For example, Syngenta has applied in Europe for authorisation to import a type of GM maize, named Event 3272, specifically intended for ethanol agrofuels. This maize can help convert itself into ethanol by growing a particular enzyme (which breaks starch into simpler molecules of carbohydrate easing the transformation into ethanol). However, it also contains a marker gene derived from E coli. "Agrofuels: Towards a Reality Check in nine key areas", a recent paper produced by several organisations campaigning on agrofuels, explains how applications for import of this GM maize in the EU and South Africa show that it is expected to contaminate both food and animal feed, as Syngenta has applied for authorisation for both.
Agrofuels are already enhancing the profits of the biotech industry, and the race is on for new GM energy crops. DuPont indicates annual revenues from the global agrofuel markets, largely from agricultural inputs to fuel ethanol of about US$300 million.
Last February the company announced a US$100 million reinvestment plan to shorten the time to access the market for new seed products for Pioneer, DuPont's subsidiary. According to Bill Niebur, Vice President for genetics research and development, "Demand for ethanol means that the race is on to rapidly ramp up grain yields."
Monsanto is also in the race. The world's largest developer of genetically modified seeds announced recently record profits because of growing ethanol demand. Monsanto will boost seed production capacity this year, planning to spend US$500 million to meet rising corn-seed demand. The biotech industry is also investing heavily in second generation agrofuels, designing special traits for feedstock and investing in the processes to convert feedstock into fuels, using for example, enzymes.
26.From the European bio-based economy website (www.bio-economy.net) a joint initiative of EuropaBio and ESAB. Accessed 29 May 2007.
27."Agrofuels: Towards a Reality Check in nine key areas", Paper to the Delegations of the Convention on Biological Diversity, published for the SBSTTA meeting, Paris 2-6 July 2007. Published by: Biofuelwatch, Carbon Trade Watch / Transnational Institute, Corporate Europe Observatory, Econexus, Ecoropa, Grupo de Reflexion Rural, Munlochy Vigil, NOAH (Friends of the Earth Denmark), Rettet Den Regenwald, Watch Indonesia. With contributions from Ecologistas en Accion, Global Forest Coalition, May 2007
28.News Analysis: UC's Biotech Benefactors, by Miguel Altieri and Eric Holtz-Gimenez, Berkeley Daily Planet, 6 February 2007.
29."Agrofuels: Towards a Reality Check in nine key areas", Paper to the Delegations of the Convention on Biological Diversity, published for the SBSTTA meeting, Paris 2-6 July 2007. Published by: Biofuelwatch, Carbon Trade Watch / Transnational Institute, Corporate Europe Observatory, Econexus, Ecoropa, Grupo de Reflexion Rural, Munlochy Vigil, NOAH (Friends of the Earth Denmark), Rettet Den Regenwald, Watch Indonesia. With contributions from Ecologistas en Accion, Global Forest Coalition, May 2007
30.DuPont does the DNA dance, Industry Week, John Teresko, 1 April 2007.
31.DuPont sees key GMO role in ethanol corn challenge, Reuters, 9 February 2007.
32.Monsanto Net Rises 23% on Corn Seeds; Forecast Raised, By Jack Kaskey, 4 April 2007, Bloomberg.
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