Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 19, 2009
Development and peace target agrofuels' impact
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA - If you think filling up your gas tank with ethanol created from biofuels or agrofuels helps the environment, think again.
Agrofuels are creating environmental devastation in the global South, says Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) programs coordinator Siobhan Rowan.
Not only that, people are being forced off their land and displaced as a result of large agrofuels operations, she said.
D&P is in the midst of a food sovereignty campaign to raise consciousness about the negative environmental effects of agrofuels and their impact on the food crisis.
Agrofuels require a vast amount of land and resources such as water and fertilizer, Rowan said. They negatively affect biodiversity and soil quality, and require large amounts of energy to transport them and process them into fuel, she pointed out.
"The carbon footprint of producing these materials is not small at all," she said. "We're also trying to debunk the myth that agro-fuels are going to be an answer to climate change."
In fact, they may be accelerating deleterious climate effects because agrofuels production is leading to deforestation that has seen large swathes of rainforest in countries like Brazil turned over to the production of crops that can be converted to ethanol.
Rowan called deforestation a "double whammy" because the forest resource is lost as are the forests' beneficial impacts on the climate.
In Indonesia, more than 10 million hectares of old-growth forest are now African oil palm plantations.
D&P hopes to influence the Canadian government to promote "food sovereignty" policies that give priority to small-scale farmers who produce food for local markets in sustainable ways, she said.
D&P is mounting a postcard campaign to urge the prime minister to guide his agriculture policies by food sovereignty principles.
It also urges the prime minister to use his influence with other G8 countries when he hosts a G8 summit in Huntsville, Ont., next June. That meeting will immediately precede a G20 summit.
D&P is focusing on food sovereignty as a way of addressing a root cause of the food crisis affecting one sixth of the world's population or one billion people. One cause is agricultural policies promoting export crops, say materials on D&P's website, www.devp.org.
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