Biotech for biofuels
2.URGENT: LOBBY YOUR MEP
3.Wildlife and livelihoods at risk in Kenyan wetlands biofuel project
1.Biotech for biofuels
Last week it emerged that a UK government report had confirmed what we all know - the rush to "biofuels" (more accurately termed "agrofuels") has played a "significant" role in the dramatic rise in global food prices, which has left 100 million or more without enough to eat. Biofuels, of course, are also proving an environmental disaster (see item 1).
Item 2 is an urgent call to action re "biofuels" in the EU.
GM Watch started warning about "biofuels" back in 2005. The biofuel-biotech connections are, in fact, many fold. Much of the corn that's pouring into corn-ethanol is Monsanto's GM corn, and the "biofuel" driven food crisis has also provided a windfall for Monsanto, which with its industry partners is also exploiting the crisis to promote GMOs to gullible politicians and the media as a magical fix for spiralling food prices.
And just to bring you the worst of all worlds, biotech proponents are also exploiting the biofuels debacle to further promote genetically engineered second and third generation biofuels. In fact, the wheels of a $500 million academic-industrial juggernaut aimed at developing/promoting biotech for biofuels is already rolling.
At the end of last year Chris Somerville officially started his work as the Director of the BP-Berkeley 'Energy Biosciences Institute', funded by the half a billion dollar partnership between the energy giant and the labs of UC Berkeley.
The EBI says it will initially focus its research on... you guessed it, biofuels. And a new journal, Biotechnology for Biofuels, with Somerville as co-editor, has also just been launched.
2.URGENT: LOBBY YOUR MEP
- from Nina Holland at Corporate Europe Observatory
We need urgent help from all of you. Please spread this message to all your networks, colleague groups etc.
On July 7th, the Environment committee of the European Parliament will vote on the Renewables Directive including the 10% agrofuel target. There are amendments tabled which would make this target be dropped.
However, at the moment it does not at all look sure that the ENVI committee will drop the target. Apparently there is still not enough pressure!
So, please, help by doing the following. [Below] you find a model (draft!) letter that
you can use, you can add to it, and send it (personalised if possible) to the also
attached list of ENVI committee members. Faxing is also great.
Include for example an argument or example of your own, or fax a good press
article especially if from the press from their country.
If you have a bit more time, it's even better if you could call a few of them to express your concerns further, the basic message always being that the target should be
dropped! It has to be that simple right now. You will find more detailed info from FoE Europe below.
Thanks a lot for your help, and please share with us your letters.
- a draft letter to send to MEPs [below]
We would like to ask you to write to as many of your MEPs as possible, either by email, fax or letter in the next 2 weeks. The vote is on the 7th
July in Strasbourg.
Please feel free to edit the letter to your own context and of course your own language. It would be also very important that we meet or call MEPs over the next 2 weeks. We can help you do this if needed.
Just to add that most important for reaching MEPs is to make the letter personal and authentic:
1. Choose the MEPs from your country
2. Translate into your language - please don't hesitate to shorten the letter if that helps
3. Send each MEP an own version addressing them personally
4. Ask for a response on whether the support dropping the target or not
5. Additionally you could ask for meeting before they vote on 7 July in Strasbourg - usually MEPs are reachable in their constituency offices on Friday + weekends.
Please also think about doing media work to help pressure your MEPs.
After the vote on the 7th we will then need to target the industry committee who will vote on the 16th. We will send you the latest news and MEPs details.
European Agrofuels Campaigner
Friends of the Earth Europe
Landline +49 8025 99 1951
Mobile +49 1609 490 1163
Draft Letter, 19 June 2008
To: Members of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament
Renewable Energy Directive must promote efficient cars and not unsustainable biofuels
In light of the upcoming vote in the Environment Committee on the Renewables Directive, we call on you to reject the 10% biofuel target and to instead call for tougher standards on car manufacturers in a vote expected later this year.
We fully support Europe's move to adopt ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) and renewable energy targets. But these must deliver real GHG savings, be socially and environmentally benign and avoid competition with food crops. Increasing the share of biofuels in transport is not the right answer.
As it stands, the Commission proposal would promote the production of those types of biofuels which have been shown to increase land take, deforestation and food prices. According to recent scientific findings the GHG emission saving from those biofuels has been grossly overestimated and in many cases may be worse for the climate. At the same time the Commission has proposed to weaken the car industry’s target of 120g CO2 / km in a proposal being now discussed by Parliament.
This does not add-up to a responsible and workable climate strategy.
You have the possibility to correct this mistake and prevent damage to the credibility of Europe’s climate change policy, by voting on 7th July:
- against the mandatory 10% biofuel target - lower percentages would still promote current unsustainable biofuel production and not set a signal for car producers to invest in cleaner technologies.
We trust that you, as an elected citizen representative, will help to ensure that EU decision-making will be transparent and balanced in light of the threat of biodiversity loss and world hunger on the one hand and small and uncertain GHG emission savings on the other hand.
3. Wildlife and livelihoods at risk in Kenyan wetlands biofuel project
Xan Rice in Nairobi
The Guardian, June 24 2008
*Plan approved in area prone to food shortages
*Farmers and fishermen say protests ignored
Kenya has approved a controversial biofuel project that environmentalists say could destroy some of the country's most pristine wetlands. More than 80 sq miles of the Tana river delta is scheduled to become a sugar cane plantation, with much of the crop turned into ethanol in a purpose-built factory. The area is home to lions, hippos, reptiles, primates, rare sharks and 345 bird species, and sustains thousands of farmers and fishermen whose protests have been largely ignored, according to campaigners.
Paul Matiku, executive director of Nature Kenya, a Nairobi-based conservation group, described the proposed development by Mumias Sugar, a locally listed firm, as "an ecological and social disaster" that would cause heavy drainage of the delta.
"It will seriously damage our priceless national assets and will put the livelihoods of the people living in the delta in jeopardy," he said.
The merits of growing biofuels are the source of increasingly acrimonious debate in east Africa, where vast tracts of open land in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania are attracting the attention of local and international agriculture firms hoping to cash in on the demand from the US and the European Union for clean energy sources such as ethanol....