Global Agrofuel Crops as Contested Sustainability Part II: Eco-Efficient Techno-fixes?

Introduction: Biofuel crops have been widely attacked as unsustainable, especially for causing numerous harmful effects in the global South. These include competition for land use, land-grabbing, higher food prices, greater agrichemical usage, shifts to agroindustrial monocultures, loss of rural livelihoods, peasants' expulsion from land, and deforestation.

Global agrofuel crops as contested sustainability, Part I: Sustaining what development?

Governments have been promoting biofuels for various stated aims—to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to substitute for oil imports, to enhance energy security, and/or to gain export income. Finding substitutes for oil imports is a high priority for industrialized countries such as the United States, European Union member states, and Brazil. Governments also claim that biofuels from crops will benefit rural communities by enhancing economic development and employment.

Golden Rice - Is this the way to solve malnutrition?

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a serious form of malnutrition that weakens the immune system and may cause blindness. Several measures address VAD and have shown positive results. Genetically modified rice containing beta-carotene is a new approach in an early experimental stage. Golden Rice demonstrates the problems of public research in an area where both plant and technology are heavily protected by patents.
Read the complete article here.

No Idle Threat to the Marginalised

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.

Feed the world?

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. Since the 1980s, biotechnology companies have promised that genetic engineering would produce crops that deliver higher yields. No such crops have ever been produced, but as fossil fuel supplies dwindle and food prices rise, the belief that higher-yielding GM crops could solve both our fuel and food problems has gained momentum and prominence among policymakers, government officials and the media.

Dr Frances Kelsey: thalidomide and the precautionary principle

We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Dr Frances Kelsey, write Helena Paul & Philip Bereano. In 1960, she defied her bosses at the FDA to prevent the licensing of thalidomide in the USA, saving thousands from being born with serious deformities. Her tough approach to minimising the risk from new drugs contains lessons we ignore at our peril. Read the full article at The Ecologist.

Green economy and biofuels: what did the CBD say?

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.

Coming to your table?

spraying, by Scott Butner via

The US looks set to approve GM crops that resist the 'Agent Orange' pesticide 2,4-D as well as glyphosate, writes Helena Paul. If it does, the toxic chemical - created in WW2 to destroy enemy food supplies - will soon end up in animal feeds, and the food we eat. Read the full article at The Ecologist.


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