'Biofuels killing forests, adding to world hunger'

Indonesia News.Net
Wednesday 5th December, 2007 (IANS)

Biofuels have been promoted as an answer to climate change as they can replace to some extent fossil fuels that cause global warming. But an international NGO disagrees, saying biofuels are killing forests and leading to more global warming besides taking land away from food crops.

At the UN conference on climate change being held here and being attended by over 10,000 delegates from 187 countries, Global Forest Coalition (GFC) chairperson Miguel Lovera described the danger of biofuels, which he would rather call agrofuels.

India is expanding its agrofuel programme in a big way and is planning to plant the agrofuel tree Jatropha on 14 million hectares around the country. Earlier this year, two major state-owned oil companies signed agreements with the Chhattisgarh government to plant agrofuels on large tracts of land. Brazil is the world leader in the agrofuels.

Lovera said: 'Agrofuels, which rely on large-scale industrial monocultures, are a cause of global warming, not part of a solution. Promoted as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they are in fact resulting in greater emissions because they promote deforestation and the destruction of other ecosystems which play a vital role in regulating the climate, including peat lands, displace other possible uses of land, and lead to an increase in the use of nitrogen fertilisers.'

Earlier this year, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Jean Ziegler called the diversion of land meant for food crops to agrofuel production a 'crime against humanity' and called for a five-year international moratorium on agrofuels.

Lovera claimed that large tracts of forests were being destroyed to plant agrofuels, especially in Brazil, and demanded that the issue be discussed at the Bali summit here.

Some genetically engineered agrofuel tree species have been planted in various parts of the world. Lovera called this 'extremely dangerous' because these trees could 'contaminate native forests'.

The European Union has mandated that agrofuels replace 5.75 percent of its transport fuel by 2010 and 10 percent by 2020. Other countries and some states in the US have higher replacement targets.

Lovera said this would only lead to more deforestation, mainly in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil. He also claimed that the forest fires that have destroyed a lot of the native rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia in the past few years were set deliberately to convert forests to agrofuel plantations.

According to Lovera, agrofuel plantations were also replacing land devoted to food crops in sub-Saharan Africa, where food shortages were already chronic. He referred to farmers' protests in Karnataka in India against agrofuel plantations to say people were already fighting to save their land from being taken over by these plantations.

'If the people do not succeed, world hunger is going to see a dramatic rise,' Lovera warned.

'Far from being a solution to the problem of global warming, agrofuels only take land away from forests and people,' he said. 'They must be stopped.'
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