Things I am passionate about. Injustice, stupidity, intolerance, bigotry and small-mindedness. Oh and there might just be some humor to offset the whole thing.

Expert at UN seeks to halt biofuel output

Posted by morganwrites on January 14, 2008

Another piece from the AP.

A U.N expert called the growing practice of converting good crops into biofuel “a crime against humanity”, saying it is creating food shortages and price jumps that cause millions of poor people to go hungry.

Jean Ziegler, who has been the United Nations’ independent expert on the right to food since the position was established in 2000, called for a five-year moratorium on biofuel production to halt what he called a growing ‘catastrophe’ for the poor.

Scientific research is progressing very quickly, he said, “and in five years it will be possible to make biofuel and biodiesel from agricultural waste” rather than wheat, corn, sugar cane and other food crops.

Using biofuel instead of gasoline in cars is generally considered to cut carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming, although some scientists say greenhouse gases released during the production of biofuel could offset those gains.

The use of crops for biofuel is being pursued especially in Brazil and the United States.

Last March, President Bush and Brazilian President Luiz Inancio Lula da Silva signed an agreement committing their countries to boosting ethanol production. They said increasing use of alternative fuels would lead to more jobs, a cleaner environment and greater independence from the whims of the the oil market.

Ziegler called their motives legitimate, but said that “the effect of transforming hundreds and hundreds of thousands of tones of maize, of wheat, of beans, of palm oil, into agricultural fules is absolutely catastrophic for the hungry people.”

The world price of wheat doubled in one year and the price of corn quadrupled, leaving poor countries, especially Africa, unable to pay for the imported food needed to feed their people, he said. And poor people in those countries are unable to pay the soaring prices for the food that does not come in, he added.

“So it’s a crime against humanity” to devote agricultural land to biofuel production, Ziegler said in a news conference. “What has to be stopped is … the growing catastrophe of the massacre (by) hunger in the world,” he said.

As an example, he said it takes 510 pounds of corn to produce 13 gallons of ethanol. That much corn would feed a child ind Zambia or Mexico for a year, he said.

Benjamin Chang, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said the Bush administration didn’t condsider development a threat to the poor.

“It’s clear we have a commitment to the development of biofuels, he said. “It’s also clear that we are committed to combating poverty and supporting economic developement around the world as the leading contributor of oversaes development assistance in the world.”

Ziegler, a sociology professor at the University of Geneva and the University of the Sorbonne in Paris, presented a report to the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee saying a five-year moratorium on biofuel production would allow time for new technologies for using agricultural byproducts instead of food itself.

Researchers are looking at crop residues such as corn cobs, rice husks and banana leaves, he said. “The cultivation of Jatropha Curcas, as shrub that produces large oil-bearing seeds, appears to offer a good solution as it can be grown in arid lands that are not normally suitable for food crops,” he said.

Here’s what I don’t like about the AP reporting as well as other reporting from most newspapers. No one cites references to back up their claims. Nor do they update their stories when new information comes available.

Secondly, Ziegler is a goof. Africa is not a country. One would think that a professor should know this. And to call this a massacre and a crime against humanity – please, give me a break. We, the USofA, send more money to more countries than all other countries combined. Ziegler owes us an apology.

What if the USofA were to resign from the UN? In my opinion, we’d be much better off. We could then tell all the members that they have to find another ‘home’ and we could use the UN building for our own selves, freeing up 11,500 square feet of space that we’d put to better use. Bet that would make them shit themselves.



3 Responses to “Expert at UN seeks to halt biofuel output”

  1. aaron said

    First of all, where did you find that AP article? This story if from Oct. 2006 (lil old)!

    Second of all, visit any number of websites, for example, to get all the facts you need about the less than silver bullet that 1st generation biofuels are.

    Third, Wikipedia Ziegler, he has been working with injustice, globalization, and poverty for years- a goof he is not. He is the only voice raising a very important point and needed some shock value to get people’s pay attention, so he said something shocking.

    Fourth, your statement about US aid is unequivocally wrong- indeed, the US barely gives 1/4th of what it has promised annually since the 70s. Just because we are a huge economy doesn’t mean we can give less of a share than others because it looks big on paper- we should keep our promises when we make them.

    Fifth, without the UN, who would legitimately be the international voice of reason for a real “crime against humanity” to bring the world together and change how business is done, how crops are grown, and how governments oppress? The UN isn’t there to make you or the US happy- those “goofs” there to make the world a better place by raising issues like this in an international forum.


  2. Aaron,
    Thanks for your comments. Yes, this article is ‘old’, however this piece was dated Oct. 26, 2007. If this is a rehash then so be it.

    Secondly, we can both come up with sites that are pro or con regarding biofuels – here’s some that you might want to look at: newsbusters , commondreams and scitizen.

    Thirdly, my comment regarding Jean Ziegler was that he called Africa a country. And his attack on the USofA was unwarranted, but then he’s French and the French dislike Americans – wish they’d pay back the loans we have given them – with interest it would more than likely pay off our entire deficit.

    Fourth, yes we aren’t giving as much aid as we used to – it’s all economics. We send $15 billion to aid other countries – which is quite a chunk of change. Where, exactly, can we dig up more? I know there’s a lot of pork in our system, however, why should we be blamed for not sending more when we have our own country to look after. I know that was a sophomoric sentence, but I wanted to be simple – not that you wouldn’t understand something deeper.

    Lastly, let’s address the UN. In your statement, ‘crimes against humanity’ – have you forgotten the pedophilia scandal in 2002? How about the UN troops who are raping women and children in Africa. Did you watch 60 minutes last Sunday? Jesus! Take a look at these sites: Rape, rape and more rape.

    And about Kofi Annan, don’t get me started.

  3. Oil palm: not a silver bullet against global warming
    A recent report from Colombian oil palm growers points out their interest in certifying by means of a distinctive stamp, the environmental quality of crops and products, such as oil and biofuels that they export to the European Union. The announcement took place after the publishing of an article on The New York Times (January the 15th of 2008) announcing a possible ban on the import of these products due to the environmental damage they produce.
    Several studies have discredited what, according to biofuel producers, are the environmental earnings derived from their usage, as the supposed reduction of greenhouse gas emission due to the reduction on fossil fuel usage. The growing of cereals –as the article keeps on– for transforming them into biofuels can lead to a considerable environmental damage. Not only because of the chopping down of native vegetation to plant grains instead, but also for the usage of fossil fuels as diesel in tractors used to harvest them. Moreover, these crops demand nitrogen fertilizers which involve mainly natural gas and huge quantities of water for their production.
    Already, the deforestation and drying out of peatlands, -ecosystems formed by the accumulation of organic matter from plants with an increased moisture retaining capacity- in Southeastern Asia, mainly to grow palm, accounts for up to 8% of the global annual carbon dioxide emissions, said Adrián Bebb, member of the “Friends of the Earth” environmental group.
    In Indonesia, according to The New York Times’ report, more than 18 million hectares of forest, or 44 million acres, have already been cleared for palm oil developments. Environmental groups say these developments are endangering wildlife species as the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, besides placing enormous pressure on indigenous communities whose survival depend on the sustainability of the forest.
    The Real Society, a British scientific academy, declared that requirements for using a certain biofuel percentage are not enough and that instead, specific goals should be traced for reducing fossil fuel emissions.
    According to the National Federation of Biofuels, the reason of the ban emerges from the old rivalry between soya growers, especially from the United States, and palm growers from developing countries, as the Asians, African and Latin Americans, who have begun influencing the global biofuels market.
    For “Fedecombustibles”, a Colombian biofuels federation, there is no reason to be alarm since Colombia is prepared for these kind of situations and even seems be a step ahead of the new provision that might be imposed by the European Union”. The Federation also acknowledges that such measure goes against practices used in Indonesia for enlarging cultivated area with oil palm, which extended from 2.5 to 6 million hectares in just ten years (1995-2004), a process resulting in forest destruction, high carbon dioxide emission and rural population’s displacement.”

    Although a great variety of stamps and certifications exist, they offer only a partial guarantee; none of them certifies that oil palm products imported and consumed in Europe fulfill the international standards guaranteeing the fundamental rights of those working or inhabiting production areas. None guarantees that land for palm oil cultivation has been acquired rightfully, so putting a stamp on their products will merely be a decoration that will not remedy the social and environmental burden derived from oil palm intensive cultivation, unless all, governments, growers, processors and buyers really work together towards this target.
    During the second semester of 2007, the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture ordered the restitution of a 18000 hectares farm to the peasant communities in the oriental plains of the country, communities that are being expelled from them by illegal armed groups. It is not hard to believe that these lands, already sowed with palm, will have to be sold at ridiculous prices to whoever is currently occupying them unless its owners, peasants, are able to pay large sums of money for the improvements done, “sale” that will “legalize” the holding of those lands.
    Added to the environmental questioning and communities displacement resulting from the intensive cultivation of oil palm, there is a much more serious issue: the impact on the right to food of a large number of people, which has arisen recent and strong pronouncements from specialists and organizations, among them Jean Ziegler, the United Nations special Rapporteur on the Right for enough and healthy Food.
    We cannot forget that 854 million humans suffer from serious malnutrition around the world, every 5 seconds a child aged less than 10 dies from hunger and every 4 minutes someone goes blind due vitamin A deficiency.
    The CBC, (Coordination Belge pour the Colombie) together with the HREV (Human Rights Everywhere) hired a study entitled “The flow of palm oil Colombia-Bélgica/Europa: A study from a human rights perspective” by Fidel Mingorance, which contains a detailed analysis on the implications of biofuels production in Colombia. Due to their relevance, some paragraphs have been transcribed literally from this document.
    This publication, directed to Belgian audience, unveil commercial practices related with biofuels’ production, not widely well-known but with a strong influence on populations and lands that are seek to improve by growing oil palm. This shows how responsibility does not only lay on the Colombian government and growers, but also on European buyers ignoring the death, destruction and displacement sequels emerging from oil palm developments and production in our country. This is the real reason behind prohibiting and demanding a quality stamp, a late act of contrition from those promoting and financing these developments in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
    Colombia exports mainly raw oil, which accounted for 71% of overall exports in 2005, since its refining is cheaper in Europe than in Colombia. Refining a ton in Colombia will cost US$60 while the cost in Europe will be a bit lower than 40 dollars.
    “In Colombia, government promoters of an agroindustrial model of large developments, marketing areas, and publicity of the big palm companies affirm that with the palm oil, everybody wins. Win the State finances, win the managers and wins the whole society, since, they explain, the cultivation brings great social benefits, the peace and the national development, besides benefitting the health of the final consumers and the climate of the planet.”
    In July of 2005 the former Prime first minister of Malaysia, Mahathir bin Mohamad, came to Colombia. In 1981, he found, according to the former Colombian Ambassador Sergio Naranjo, a nation whipped by the drug traffic and the guerrilla, with small rates of growth and a poverty index of 50%. And by the end of 2003, upon concluding his term, the poverty index was of 6%, with export rates of $127 thousand million dollars and growth rates 7% above rates over the past years.”
    Ambassador Naranjo highlighted the relevance of learning from Malaysia on how they ended up with the guerrilla through authority and discipline by applying a strategy that involved implementing 5 thousand plantation hectares with 500 families in guerrilla’s high pressure areas. These families had farmed the land, registered revenues and enjoyed from economic and social development, which has moved them to fight together with the institutions to defeat the guerrillas”. Almost 3 years later, neither the guerrilla has been eliminated, neither peasants have become rich and the peace remains an illusion.
    According to the ex-ambassador, Biodiesel production acquires strategic importance for Colombia due to the peace processes, culture substitution and social reinsertion processes to future.”
    For his part, President Álvaro Uribe said he considers “it is very important to establish a council, a group of the Colombian and Malaysian business communities, to further strengthen up these bonds”. And he added that Colombia and Malaysia agree in most of their priorities, amongst which reaching high development levels in the rural areas is included.
    Likewise, Uribe reminded that investment possibilities in our country agriculturally speaking are very important for both nations, as for example oil palm cultivation. “You, -Mahathir bin Mohamad – explained us, for example, that your country has a million sowed hectares with oil palm, and may not have more lands for extending these plantations. Colombia has near 300 thousand sowed hectares, but it is a country full of opportunities. If you see this country as a whole, you can perfectly see that there are huge possibilities of sowing six million hectares more with oil palm”, accentuated the President.
    We have 6 million hectares available for sowing, “without having to cut a single tree or a cultivated hectare”, said also the Minister of Agriculture Felipe Arias. If the 300.000 hectares nowadays cultivated have caused the amount of murders and displacements which urged the European demand and linking of an important number of palm managers to judicial processes, is not hard to conceive the ferocious competition that would unloosed for property of over 3.5 million more fertile hectares, where there is no need to invest much in adaptation, infrastructure, pipelines, drainage, fertilizers, etc., and for the 2.5 less profitable million hectares, besides the soil deterioration, water contamination and massive dislodgment of peasants that the extensive sowing dreamed by the President and his friends would cause.
    The Malaysian perspective, is not as flattering as they say. The devastating effects of oil palm’s intensive cultivation in this country are well-known today; the agricultural diversity and water quality have diminished as consequence of the extended use of fertilizers, pesticides and machinery. Oil palm’s intensive cultivation is responsible for 87% of deforestation taking place between 1985 and 2000 in that country, thus transforming the “green dream” in a true environmental nightmare.
    Carlos Murgas Guerrero, ex-minister of Agriculture and President Pastrana’s advisory, inspired by his official visit to Malaysia, was the one introduced the Malayan model strategic alliances nowadays applied in Colombia, model for whose results the European Union is now embarrassed.
    “This pattern can be generalized in a 5 phases sketch:
    1. Attack or paramilitary conquest.
    2. Illegal appropriation of lands. Steal or buy by means of armed intimidation.
    3. Palm field.
    4. Oil palm development complex = Plantations + Processing machinery.
    5a. Oil flow towards national and/or international markets.
    5b. Territorial domain.
    This is a resume of the different processes that are being developed in oil palm areas around the country, but is entirely applicable in particular to the new plantations that are developing during the present decade(1 out of 5).
    In previous processes, as those in Santander or Tumaco, the pattern had begun with already established palm complexes, where palm managers were the ones who conformed or invited and financed paramilitary groups as private security bodies to fight against guerrillas. Instead, in Casanare, palm plantations expanded at the same rhythm as paramilitary actions, both expansions being overlapped. The ones perfectly adjusting to the pattern are plantations in Chocó, where paramilitary were the ones inviting palm managers to settle down in those areas under their control”
    Regarding this, Carlos Daniel Merlano, one of the farmers linked to the process, declared in an interview granted to EL ESPECTADOR that: “By the end of 90’s, armed confrontations between the FARC and the illegal paramilitary group “Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia”, AUC, turned the area into a battle field which generated displacement. Precisely in that area, palm farmers arrived and brought community together. Their only concern has been transforming this region into a prosperous place through oil palm and its final product, the Biodiesel. The Constitutional Court repealed the law 1021 of 2006 on Forestry Incentives, arguing that timber areas and palm farm communities were not aware of its scopes.
    On the other hand, late yield crops as the oil palm, require a considerable initial investment for their preparation and maintenance for the first four or five years, time during which they are unproductive. “The peasants don’t usually have enough financial resources as to maintain themselves until the first harvest arrives. Nevertheless, the number of small peasants has increased during the last years as expenses for these first years are now being covered by state resources, which means that they become debtors and should enrolled, with no other alternative, to productive alliances with the big companies, which thus get a captive market.
    Within such big companies we can find, among many others, Unilever, Cargill, HJ Heinz, Nestlé, Colgate Palmolive, L’Oreal, Avon, Max Factor, etc, besides numerous companies with interests in the chocolates, foods, chemicals, fertilizers and agricultural supplies, fuels market, banks and financial services”. Practically the whole industry has been touched by the oil palm market.
    The law 1133 of 2007, article third, first paragraph, states verbatium as follows: “For all, it must be understood that direct financial support or incentives are selectively and temporarily delivered, within the exercise of a public policy, being under the national government’s power, to objectively select the area that will benefit from the direct financial support or incentive and the value thereof, as well as to determine within these, the requirements and conditions to be met by those aspiring to become beneficiaries”.
    The financial support or incentives mentioned by the law 1133 add up to 900 thousand million pesos within 2007 and 2008, adjusted as minimum by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for each term”, which means, around a billion pesos designated to the implementation of the Agriculture Sure Income program (AIS: for its acronym in Spanish), (around 500 million dollars) a quite attractive number for those interested in promoting the productivity and competitiveness, reducing inequality and getting the agricultural sector ready for facing the challenge of economic globalization” stated as this law’s purpose, but hardly within the reach of common peasants or the displaced afrocolombian population”.
    The good intentions manifested by the President, the Ministers and palm managers, has ended up in a chain of events that is now holding “against the wall” a considerable number of palm managers, 23 who are being accused by the General Attorney’s Office of usurping lands helped by the illegal armed groups operating in the area.
    “At the discretion of the investigating body, these actions have resulted in criminal behaviors such as conspiracy to commit a crime and forced displacement. With an aggravating factor: the Prosecution investigates how, in some cases, public and private documents were adulterated to acquire ownership of land. Similarly, investigators found that the promoters of the oil palm’s agrobusiness project in the Chocoan Urabá also ignored environmental regulations in effect, perturbating the ecological system of the rivers Curvaradó and Jiguamiando”
    “The controversial paramilitary demobilization process and the non-less controversial ‘Justice and Peace Law’ has added another important factor at this stage of the palm pattern. In some of the reinsertion projects, it is intended for demobilized people to work in palm plantations as economic integration that will take them out the war. Sometimes, it is proposed not only that victims and victimizers work together “for the sake of reconciliation”, but, in some cases, the victims have to work as employees at the farms that were once theirs but that were violently stolen by the same paramilitaries now reinserted. ”
    “The demobilization process involves an injection of public money for the development of new palm plantations in areas of strong paramilitary presence. Through productive projects as “Families Rangers” or programs mostly funded by the USAID23 agency linked to the demobilization or replacement of illicit crops, they are expanding oil palm plantations in Santander, Magdalena, Bolivar, La Guajira, Nevada, Cesar, Nariño, Atlantic, Norte de Santander, Cordoba, Antioquia and Choco.”
    Neither crops for biofuel production or these are bad by themselves, but for the conditions under which they developed, the legal-politic-paramilitary actions undertaken to appropriate land, the displacement of peasants, the competition between fuel and food sharpening to inconceivable hedges the lack of food for millions of people, the environment lies upon which profitable business are justify and impose that will end up enriching a few while extinguishing native forest and wild life from those “benefited countries”
    From our ability to fully understand all kinds of impacts from the biofuel’s boom we are living nowadays, depends that we can take full advantage of its benefitial while mitigating and controlling the negative impact that its production and combustion have. Oil palm: not a silver bullet against global warming
    1. Farmers rejects possible ban of UE
    2. Europe May Ban Imports of Some Biofuel Crops
    3. The dossier of the farmers
    4. the flow of the palm oil Colombia-Bélgica/Europa
    5. Former first Minister from Malaysia visits Colombia
    6. President Uribe proposes managerial commission of Colombia and Malaysia

    C. Fernando Márquez M.
    Colombian Society of Drivers

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