Article

Real problems, false solutions

October 2009

Grupo de Reflexión Rural, Biofuelwatch, EcoNexus, NOAH & FoE Denmark

Three activities – no-till agriculture, biochar and more intensified livestock farming with reduced methane emissions – are likely to benefit from increased funding because of their alleged role in combating global warming. What is the evidence that these activities can reduce greenhouse gas emissions? What will happen to the world’s biodiversity and the global climate if these sectors are hugely expanded? And who is likely to benefit?

A dangerous precedent

The UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics proposes five ethical principles and a duty to develop biofuels instead of the Precautionary Principle

May 2011

Helena Paul

The Precautionary Principle advises society to be cautious about a technology or practice where there is scientific uncertainty, ignorance, gaps in knowledge or the likelihood of outcomes we did not predict or intend. It runs counter to the optimistic notion that any negative impacts from a technology can be addressed and may provide an opportunity to develop new solutions, so contributing to economic growth. The US Chamber of Commerce dislikes the precautionary approach and prefers: “the use of sound science, cost-benefit analysis, and risk assessment when assessing a particular regulatory issue.” Its strategy is therefore to: “Oppose the domestic and international adoption of the precautionary principle as a basis for regulatory decision making.”

Rio+20, the “Green Economy” and the Real Priorities

March 2011

Helena Paul

At the recent preparatory conference for Rio+20 in New York (7-8th March) it became clear that the “green economy” concept is complicating an already difficult process. Definitions of sustainable development have been argued over for years; now we are invited instead to see everything in terms of a “green economy”. UNEP, which produced its massive economics-dominated report shortly before the prepcom/conference, defines the “green economy” as one that results in improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. Thus the biodiversity and ecosystem resilience on which we all depend are reduced to “risks” and “scarcities”. Even though it is clear that the “green economy” means very different things to different interests, many parties simply parroted the phrase over and over; Bolivia was one of the few that commented critically, noting that there is not a shared vision of what the "green economy" might be.

Green economy and biofuels: what did the CBD say ?

April 2011

Helena Paul

With next year’s Rio+20 Earth Summit due to meet in the ‘biofuel republic of Brazil’ it is little wonder that the fights over agrofuels will be intensifying in the years ahead. UNEP’s flagship ‘Green Economy’ study published last month appears to bless a massive expansion of agrofuel – advocating for over a fifth (21.6%) of all liquid fuels to be bio‐based by 2050. Sourcing all that biological feedstock is a feat that even UNEP admit will gobble up over a third (37%) of global agricultural and forest ‘residues’ – a hefty take from already overstressed ecosystems.

Finance, targets, green economy and innovative financial mechanisms

March 2011

Helena Paul & Antje Lorch

Discussions on funding, financial targets and innovative financial mechanisms were extremely difficult during the COP10 in Nagoya in October 2010 and clearly revealed the divide between North and South. They also reflect a wider struggle going on over the effectiveness and implications of market‐oriented approaches to the three Rio Conventions, including biodiversity
conservation. This struggle that is going to be central for "Rio+20", the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development where 'green economy' is one of the two main topics on the agenda.

No Idle Threat to the Marginalised

The Focus on “Marginal and Idle” Land for Biofuels (Agrofuels)

February 2009

Helena Paul

Since this article was written, the focus on using so-called “marginal” or “idle” land for agrofuel production has continued and intensified. The EU currently offers a bonus for agrofuel production on “degraded” land and has consulted on extending this bonus to “idle” land. The article examines some of the issues behind this push and what it means for indigenous and local communities, who may not be recognised as land-users, but who may actually be protecting and enhancing biodiversity vital to food supplies on the land they use.

Carbon - The New Cash Crop

May 2010

Helena Paul

Following Copenhagen the message is clear: if we do not act swiftly, industrial agriculture could soon claim large rewards from carbon trading by being recognized as a carbon sink. We know that climate change has the potential to irreversibly damage the natural resource base on which agriculture depends. But we also know that industrial agriculture is a major cause of climate change, so how can rewarding it with carbon credits help reduce its climate impacts?
The Land Magazine: http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/

Feed the world?

November 2008

R. Steinbrecher & A. Lorch

The promise of more food from increased yields is driving the appeal for more GM crops, but that promise is theoretical and unfulfilled, argue Dr Ricarda A Steinbrecher and Antje Lorch.

Interview: Thai Rice Farmer on GM crops

Daoreung Pheudphon explains why GM crops are a threat to farmers and won’t feed the world

February 2005

Conducted by Ricarda A. Steinbrecher, Ph.D.,

Summary of points:

  • History of rice farming and the introduction of modern technologies.
  • Impact of the green revolution and its agro-chemicals on traditional farming, bio-diversity and culture
  • What farmers are doing to revert to sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty
  • Farmers fear to loose their rights to save and improve their own seed
  • Farmers export chemically produced crops but avoid eating it themselves
  • Message to Europe and UK – GM crops won’t solve the hunger problem. Farmers do not want GM seeds.

Terminator Technology

The Threat to World Food Security

October 1998

by Ricarda A Steinbrecher and Pat Roy Mooney

Monsanto's latest flagship technology makes a nonsense of its claim that it seeks to feed the worlds hungry. On the contrary, it threatens to undermine the very basis of traditional agriculture - that of saving seeds from year to year. What's more, this “gene cocktail" will increase the risk that new toxins and allergens will make their way into the food chain.

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