Thursday, September 30, 2010

October 16th: International day of Action against Agribusiness and Monsanto

La Via Campesina release
October 16th: International day of Action against Agribusiness and Monsanto

On the occasion of the meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, and to mark World Food Day on October 16, 2010, La Via Campesina calls for actions around the world to denounce the role of agribusinesses such as Monsanto and their destruction and corporatization of biodiversity and life.
Even though the UN declared 2010 the International year of Biodiversity, the CBD is meeting at a time of unprecedented biodiversity destruction. As well as animals, insects and birds, the world is also seeing the disappearance of thousands of plant varieties as agribusiness destroys, contaminates and privatizes the World Heritage stored inside the seeds and plants nurtured by generations of farmers over thousands of years of agriculture on Earth. Since 1900, approximately 90% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost from farmer's fields. Biodiversity is also endangered by land-grabbing and the displacement of communities who are actually protecting biodiversity.

Agribusiness corporations are attempting to monopolize seeds through the use of hybrid seeds, patents and laws that make farmers' seeds illegal. Intellectual property rights systems that are upheld or enforced by institutions such as WTO or TRIPS are putting nature into private hands. Monsanto has become a true giant – the company owns almost a quarter of the patented seed market worldwide, and keeps taking over seeds companies particularly in Europe. The top ten biggest companies control almost 70% of the world's seeds. The company is now entering the "aid business", selling its seeds in Africa with the Bill Gates Foundation through the "Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)".

Not only do the TNCs sell seeds, they also provide toxic chemicals with devastating effects. Huge monocultures treated with cocktails of agrochemicals will further destroy the world's biodiversity as well as peasant communities. In the world of Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and others, there is no space for biodiversity, just uniformity, biotechnology and profit.

Within the decision making spaces on climate change, agribusiness promotes aggressively technologies that destroy biodiversity such as transgenic trees plantations or GM seeds, solutions which are fasly presented as better adapted to the new climate.

La Via Campesina knows that the future of our planet depends on our ability to protect, nurture and promote agro biodiversity. We, peasant men and women propose to develop the richness and diversity of our farms, plant varieties, cultures and traditions. Seeds are part of the World Heritage and should remain into public and community-based use, not private ownership.

It is the model of peasant agriculture in its diversity that will allow us to adapt to the demographic and climatic changes which are already upon us.

As we confront the agribusinesses in our fields through promoting our alternatives, we refuse to recognize their "rights" as owners of the planet's biodiversity and we will also confront them through political actions in the coming weeks, at the FAO, the CBD and the UN Climate Talks (UNFCCC).

We call for Actions worldwide around October 16th to protect biodiversity and confront transnational corporations such as Monsanto.
La Via Campesina invites you to coordinate your actions with the call of the network "Climate Justice Action!" in order to organise direct actions worldwide for climate justice on October 12th, 2010. (/


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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lib Dems call for progress on biofuels

Lib Dems call for progress on biofuels

Caroline Stocks
Monday 20 September 2010 13:01

More progress needs to be made on producing biofuels and other forms of renewable energy if the UK is to meet green fuel targets, according to the climate change minister.

Department for Energy and Climate Change minister Chris Huhne was speaking at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Liverpool on Sunday (19 September).
Mr Huhne told delegates that more biofuel production and anaerobic digestion plants were needed if the country was going to succeed in producing 20% of renewable fuel by 2020.
And he added that the UK had the third-worst rate of renewable energy production in Europe - ahead of only Malta and Luxembourg - and more needed to be done to encourage people to install AD plants and wind turbines.
He also said there was going to be a "very important" role for biofuels in the coming years which farmers could take advantage of. 
But Mr Huhne warned the development of the industry could not affect food production.
"There will be plenty of business for biofuel products, but it can't be at the cost of food-producing land at a time when the population is growing massively," he told delegates at a Friends of the Earth fringe event on climate change.
"We also need to get anaerobic digestion plants out there are deal with the myths around them," he said.
"There are severe planning problems around them at the moment but I am talking to DEFRA about how to get past those. We need to make progress."
Mr Huhne said the government needed to do a lot of work on winning the public over, about different methods of green energy production.
"There's a lot of nimbyism around," he said. "I don't understand the problem with wind turbines, I think they are beautiful - why can't people like them?
"We will also work harder to make people love anaerobic digestion plants, particularly ones fed on pig slurry."
Mr Huhne said he was confident that spending cuts would not affect renewable energy plans or Prime Minister David Cameron's pledge to be the greenest government ever.
But he said the government had to ensure people were able to make money from renewable energy production to encourage them to become greener.
"We need real financial incentives on renewables to make it daft for people not to do it," he added.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Please object to large proposed biomass power station in Dundee

Forth Energy have put in a planning application for a power station in Dundee which will burn 1 million tonnes of mainly imported wood per year.  Altogether, they want to build four power stations in Scotland which will burn a total of 5.3 million tonnes.  That's the equivalent of nearly two-thirds of the UK's annual wood production.  Such a large new demand for wood will, directly and/or indirectly, mean more industrial tree plantations and more logging at the expense of forests, climate and communities.

If approved, Forth Energy's power stations would attract an estimated £300 million in subsidies every year – paid as "Renewable Obligation Certificates" through a levy on electricity bills.

Local residents would be affected by more air pollution in a city with already high levels of pollution.  There are also serious concerns about the impacts on the Firth of Tay and Eden Estuary,which is a Special Area of Conservation.   There has been a large number of objections from residents in Dundee already.  

To read more background information and to object to the application through our webform, please go to: 

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Sustainable Palm Oil Body Censures Indonesia's PT SMART

Sustainable Palm Oil Body Censures Indonesia's PT SMART

Date: 24-Sep-10
Author: Sunanda Creagh

Sustainable Palm Oil Body Censures Indonesia's PT SMART Photo: Tommy Ardiansyah
An aerial view shows land, owned by Indonesian palm oil giant PT SMART Tbk, being cleared in Ketapang in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province August 2, 2010.
Photo: Tommy Ardiansyah

An industry body for sustainable palm oil has made its first public censure of a member, saying Indonesia's PT SMART Tbk breached its principles and may face sanctions, and also ticked off the firm's parent.

SMART last month released an independent audit after Greenpeace alleged SMART bulldozed high conservation value forests and damaged carbon-rich peatlands. The audit gave SMART a mixed score card, highlighting some instances in which Indonesia's environmental laws were breached.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) -- an industry body of planters, green groups and consumers -- said on its website its grievance panel had written to SMART and Golden Agri censuring the firms for the breaches uncovered by the audit.

SMART is a member of the RSPO but Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) is not.

"In its letter to SMART and GAR, the panel finds there has been serious non-compliance with the RSPO code of conduct, specifically a failure by SMART to work toward implementation and certification of the RSPO principles and criteria," it said.

In particular, RSPO principles on social and environmental impact assessments and peatland management have been infringed, it said.

"Members who have been found to not be in compliance and who continue to be in non-compliance with the RSPO regulations could ultimately face sanctions, including the suspension and, eventually, the termination, of their membership of the RSPO."

The comments may be a blow to SMART's aims to win back big palm oil buyers including Burger King Holdings, Nestle and Unilever, who have said they will stop buying from SMART because of environmental concerns.

The RSPO also urged GAR to stop publicly suggesting it was in the process of obtaining RSPO certification.

"GAR is not a member of the RSPO, nor has the RSPO yet received a membership application from the company. The Panel encourages GAR to submit a full and complete application for membership," the statement said.

SMART said in a statement it would work toward the requirements set by the RSPO, including environmental impact assessments and conservation of deep peatlands.

Enormous amounts of climate-warming gases are released when deep peatlands are disturbed, and the deforestation of Indonesia's extensive tropical forests led the World Bank to name it the world's number three emitter in a 2007 report.

"We take the feedback of our stakeholders very seriously and this applies to the concerns of the RSPO, whom we are in touch with," said Daud Dharsono, President Director of SMART.

Golden Agri referred queries to the SMART statement. SMART and Singapore-listed Golden Agri are controlled by the Widjaja family that founded Sinar Mas, a group with interests from plantations to property and finance.

Greenpeace welcomed the RSPO's statement, saying RSPO should follow up on its reprimand by expelling SMART within four weeks if the company does not take action.

"Greenpeace is calling on other companies, like Cargill, to follow Unilever, Nestle and Kraft's lead and cancel its palm oil contracts with Sinar Mas until it stops destroying rainforest and carbon rich peatlands," said Greenpeace activist Bustar Maitar.

(Editing by Neil Chatterjee)


© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved

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How to Green and Clean Buildings with Bioheat-A New York Case Study

"Bioheat® is a mixture of biodiesel and heating oil. Biodiesel, an advanced biofuel, reduces America's dependency on foreign oil, improves air quality and protects the environment. "

From- Environmental News Network.


How to Green and Clean Buildings with Bioheat-A New York Case Study

WHAT: Media are invited to participate in a webinar to learn how New York is cleaning and greening buildings with Bioheat®.


  • James F. Gennaro, New York City Council 24th District located in Queens. Councilman Gennaro sponsored the New York City Bioheat legislation. He chairs the Council's Committee on Environmental Protection. He has spearheaded efforts to cut the city's global warming pollution emissions, promote green buildings and put more "clean air" vehicles on city streets. Before being elected to the Council, Gennaro served as an adjunct professor of political science and environmental public policy at Queens College.

  • Peter M. Iwanowicz, New York State Deputy Secretary for the Environment. Deputy Secretary Iwanowicz's responsibilities include representing the Governor on a range of environmental and natural resource policy matters. He also served as the Assistant Secretary for the Environment and was the first Director of the New York State Office of Climate Change. Before joining state government, Iwanowicz served as Vice President for the American Lung Association of New York State.

  • Moderated by National Biodiesel Board Director of Sustainability Don Scott
WHEN: September 30, 2010, 2 — 2:45 pm EST

WHERE: To register for the webinar, please visit

BACKGROUND: Bioheat® is a mixture of biodiesel and heating oil. Biodiesel, an advanced biofuel, reduces America's dependency on foreign oil, improves air quality and protects the environment.

New York City is already the nation's largest municipal user of biodiesel. This free webinar will examine why New York has now approved an air quality bill that ensures cleaner burning Bioheat® is used for heating homes and buildings in this City that uses 1 billion gallons of heating oil annually.

Contact: Kaleb Little/800-841-5849

For more on Bioheat, visit

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Biodiesel industry is undergoing a significant revival.

This from Biofuels Digest:-

In Iowa, the long suffering biodiesel industry is undergoing a significant revival.

The roots causes of the biodiesel industry's difficulties are now widely understood. The fast rise of soybean prices in 2007-09, which put traditional soy biodiesel out of the cost range of most buyers. The disappearance of a key $1.00 per gallon federal tax credit that did must to keep many small operators afloat when soy prices started their rise. The collapse of European markets amidst charges of US biodiesel dumping by enraged rapeseed biodiesel producers in Europe, inflamed over what became known as "splash and dash" and "conceal and deal" practices that were alleged but rarely proven.

Reed more @


Hot technologies, RFS power US biodiesel revival

In Iowa, the long suffering biodiesel industry is undergoing a significant revival.

The roots causes of the biodiesel industry’s difficulties are now widely understood. The fast rise of soybean prices in 2007-09, which put traditional soy biodiesel out of the cost range of most buyers. The disappearance of a key $1.00 per gallon federal tax credit that did must to keep many small operators afloat when soy prices started their rise. The collapse of European markets amidst charges of US biodiesel dumping by enraged rapeseed biodiesel producers in Europe, inflamed over what became known as “splash and dash” and “conceal and deal” practices that were alleged but rarely proven.

Down to a handful of active producers by ‘09

With the collapse in markets, rising prices and the evaporation of the tax credits, condition were ripe for the end of biodiesel 1.0. By early 2010, only two major producers were left standing, Imperium Renewables in Washington state and the Renewable Energy Group, which controlled a network of plants throughout the Midwest.

Estimates of biodiesel capacity were in the 3 billion gallon range, and the market was estimated at around 300 million to 500 million gallons, and numerous producers went idle, bankrupt, or were produce at a fraction of their capacity.

Optimism revives with RFS2

Optimism began to return this year when the EPA finally issued rules for the revised Renewable Fuel Standard, which called for a rapid expansion in biodiesel blending, and also qualified biodiesel as an advanced biofuel, since it easily satisfied the 50 percent emissions improvement required under RFS2.

Something most interesting happened this year with the RFS. The EPA waived down the cellulosic ethanol mandate when it was cleat that production capacity was not availability. But the standard as a whole was not waived down, and a main reason was the availability of biodiesel to fill the gap.

Not every gallon can come back. Estimates range from 750 million to 1.5 billion gallons in terms of the actual potential to revive production capacity in the US. With the delays in cellulosic ethanol, there is the chance that even more production capacity from biodiesel will be called for as the RFS bites deeper and deeper into the US fuel supply over the next ten years.

Imperium and REG

We profiled the recovery of Imperium Renewables earlier in the summer, identifying its focus on developing markets in British Columbia (taking advantage of the biodiesel mandate in that province), as well as continuing to invest in advanced technology and looking at opportunities to develop drop-in fuels at its Hoquiam-based 100 Mgy facility in Washington state.

Over at REG, different tactics have emerged. Digest readers have noted throughout this year that REG has been acquiring additional capacity through acquisition and is proceeding on a consolidation of existing US biodiesel capacity. Just last week, they announced the acquisition of the Clovis, NM biodiesel project, although the company did not identify a timeline for re-starting production at the plant.

But the other key to its strategy has been flying to some extent under the headlines, which is REG’s high FFA stripping technology. What does this accomplish? It allows the company to take in low-cost, high-volume feedstocks that have traditionally posed challenges for biodiesel conversion, and to strip out the free fatty acids (FFA) that are the root of the problem. The resulting oils are, essentially, homogenized, making it possible to put relatively exotic feedstocks into production equipment that was originally developed for virgin veggie oils that have, ultimately, become too expensive for the fuel markets.


REG has been able to source, acquire and utilize low-cost feedstocks from a huge inventory of suppliers – for example, the company has been acquiring not only yellow grease, but can increasingly handle brown trap greases that are often associated with tipping fees or extremely low feedstock prices. The company, according to reports, is sourcing feedstock from as far away as the Alaskan fishing industry, which produces waste fish oils as a residue and is now distributing those to REG.

Waste as a key to the future

It’s not entirely clear how much waste fats, oils and greases (FOG) is available in the US – in addition to major sources such as Tyson and renderers such as Darling, there is the municipal market as well as the restaurant trade, where volumes are less easy to predict. But, for sure, there is enough to significantly reduce the dependence of the biodiesel industry on virgin oil feedstocks, and re-open the market for biodiesel just as the RFS kicks in. As evidence, ARES has just invested $8 million in REG.

Biodiesel as an advanced biofuel

One of the messages that the National Biodiesel Board, along with the companies, is conveying, is biodiesel’s position within the group of “advanced biofuels,” based on the EPA’s definition, which focuses not on production technology, feedstock, or fuel, but on the carbon intensity. 50 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, and made from biomass? You have an advanced biofuel.

It’s a trend we see from California as well – as flawed as their process for defining qualifying fuels may be, the state is using a low-carbon fuel standard, under which an infinite number of fuel and feedstock combinations may compete for business, with the mandate creating the market, the emissions standard creating the threshold, and price and marketing determining winners and losers among the competing fuels.

The tax credit issue

As REG’s Alicia Clancy explains, “It’s not just the dollars from biodiesel tax credit that are the issue. It is the uncertainty, and the impact that has on lenders and partners. That’s more of an impact on us.”

The bottom line

How will biodiesel fare? It’s always been a sublime fuel under normal operating conditions – and EPA has signaled that as long as there is sufficient biodiesel production capacity in the country, the overall RFS mandate will not be waived down irrespective of the difficulties in financing cellulosic ethanol or other advanced biofuels capacity expansion. That’s good news for all the fuels and feedstocks, providing market stability for all, and especially good news for biodiesel’s many supporters. And not a moment too soon.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Land and violence in Colombia

Land and violence in Colombia: This land is our land.
Economist. September 16, 2010

This land is our land

At last the government tries to reverse a violent agrarian “counter-reform”

LA ALEMANIA is a farm of 550 hectares (1,360 acres) in San Onofre, near the Montes de Maria, a chain of low mountains running south from Cartagena, Colombia’s prime tourist resort. In 1998 a group of 52 families clubbed together and, with the help of government land-reform grants and soft loans, managed to buy the farm. Just two years later they were run off the land by a squad of illegal right-wing paramilitaries who set up camp there. Pressed at gunpoint to sell, the farmers fled to nearby towns. Six of them were killed.

In 2006, after the paramilitaries demobilised and their leader was himself killed, the farmers dared to return. Their 600 cattle had been sold, pasture was overgrown and cropland neglected. A creditor bank was about to auction off the farm to cover an unpaid debt of 1.6 billion pesos ($900,000). The collective’s president, Rogelio Martínez, received death threats while fighting the foreclosure in court. One warned him “not to be a hero, because heroes end up dead,” recalls his wife, Julia Torres. He was shot dead in May by half a dozen men.

Across Colombia, hundreds of thousands of people displaced by paramilitaries and guerrillas face similar afflictions in their quest to recover their land. Some made forced sales after being told “either you sell to me or your widow will.” Others abandoned their plots. Two-thirds of the 3.3m Colombians officially registered as internally displaced claim to have lost land when they fled.

The government of Juan Manuel Santos, who took over from Álvaro Uribe as president last month, wants to restore this land. Officials are careful to avoid calling the new effort a land reform, a policy that failed in the past. But if it achieves even half of what it sets out to, it will amount to a revolution in rural Colombia.

Extremely unequal land ownership is both a cause and a consequence of the political conflicts that have plagued Colombia for decades. In 1954 fewer than 24,000 people (or 3% of landowners) held 55% of all farmland; by 2005, 16,350 landowners (0.4% of the total) held 62.6% of the land, whereas about 3.3m smallholders owned just 8.8%, according to official figures. Drug traffickers and paramilitaries (often the same people) snatched huge tracts of rural land in the 1980s and 1990s to launder their profits in what amounted to a violent and illegal agrarian “counter-reform”.

The government estimates that 4m hectares were bought with ill-gotten money. Only 540,000 hectares of this have been confiscated. Estimates of the amount of land illegally or violently seized range from another 2.2m to 5.5m hectares. In theory, paramilitaries were supposed to turn over this land when they demobilised under Mr Uribe, but only 17,000 hectares were surrendered.

On September 7th Mr Santos’s administration published a bill to create special courts to oversee land restitution. It would also reverse the burden of proof, requiring owners to show they acquired land legally and without violence or threats. The aim is to restore 2m hectares to the dispossessed over the next four years. “It is the only way to end the cycle of conflicts,” says Alejandro Reyes, an expert on land and violence who is now advising the government.

It will not be easy. Some 70% of displaced people hold no formal title, and many worked the land under unwritten sharecropping arrangements, according to Ana Maria Ibáñez, an economist at the University of the Andes in Bogotá. The bill proposes a new land registry based on testimony by the displaced and their neighbours. The broader aim is to formalise land tenure in a country where only 40% of farms have titles and only half have been valued. The registered value of Colombia’s national territory (of 114m hectares) is just $279 billion, of which property in Bogota, the capital, accounts for 40%.

Its low value encourages owners of land to leave much of it fallow or sparsely grazed by a few cows. Juan Camilo Restrepo, the agriculture minister, wants to induce more productive use of land. Almost half the 38.6m hectares devoted to ranching could be used for intensive farming, the ministry reckons. It also wants to turn some fallow or confiscated land over to landless people, as a way to reduce Colombia’s high unemployment rate. A new “peasant-farmer reserve zone” will be created near the Montes de Maria, an area where agribusinesses have been buying land from indebted small farmers at bargain prices. And once land is properly valued it could be duly taxed.

The bill will doubtless be watered down in Congress. Farming lobbies say they support its principles, but they urge the government to provide financial and technical support for the displaced so that they become productive farmers. Ranchers worry that they will face false claims to their land.

The real opposition may come not in the legislature but on the ground. Mr Restrepo acknowledges that the policy could be “risky” for those who make claims for land against “sinister” interests. Many demobilised paramilitaries have joined new criminal gangs. “We cannot rule out violent responses,” he says. At least 45 leaders of victims’ organisations fighting to regain lost land have been murdered in the past five years. The government will have to try to protect those who make claims.

After her husband’s murder, Ms Torres thought about leaving La Alemania. But she decided instead to take up his struggle for the farm. “I’d like to see his goal reached, that La Alemania be ours.” Difficult though it will be to carry out, the new policy is a brave and overdue effort to achieve justice in the countryside. By turning land from a source of political power into an economic asset, it might even make Colombia a more prosperous country.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tree plantations cause grave problems

Tree plantations cause grave problems
Posted on 21, September, 2010
Friends of the Earth International, 21 September 2010

"Today Friends of the Earth International celebrates the international day against tree plantations, a yearly event aimed at exposing that large-scale plantations cause grave problems for local people and the environment. [1] "Friends of the Earth International groups are taking action around the globe to expose that large-scale plantations cause grave problems for local people and the environment. This year our main activities are taking place in Brazil, where tree plantations are a major concern for local people and the environment," according to Isaac Rojas, coordinator for Friends of the Earth International´s program on Forests and Biodiversity.

"Some policy tools to address deforestation negotiated in the UN Climate Convention are particularly dangerous because they consider industrial tree plantations as a solution to the climate crisis, which is absurd," added Rojas.

The UN mechanism known as `REDD' (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) is particularly dangerous, for instance because it could reward those engaged in logging and starting large scale plantations whilst ignoring countries and communities that have low deforestation rates and live sustainably.

"The main drivers of the current expansion of industrial tree plantations are big transnational forestry and cellulose corporations along with financial institutions such as the World Bank and even the UN Food and Agriculture Organization .The push for tree plantations is based on false promises of job creation, sustainable development, climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection. But testimonies and case studies compiled by Friends of the Earth groups show that plantations have very severe impacts on local people and the environment alike," said Sebastian Valdomir, coordinator for Friends of the Earth International's program on Economic Justice and Resisting Neoliberalism.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) promotes tree plantations and labels them `planted forests'.

"Initiatives such as the FAO World Forest Week [October 4-8, 2010] and the "International Year of Forests" [2011] should give a voice to the tens of thousands of people affected by tree plantations around the world. Instead, they support big transnational forestry corporations and their damaging large scale plantations," said Valdomir.

Large scale tree plantations are incompatible with the urgently needed solutions to the climate and biodiversity crisis. The solutions include:

Enforcing and promoting `community based-forest governance' (regulations and practices used by many communities for the conservation and sustainable use of the forests with which they coexist).

Promoting `food sovereignty' (the right of peoples to sufficient, nutritious, healthy food that is produced in an ecologically and culturally appropriate way).

Friends of the Earth International is campaigning globally to expose the impacts of large scale plantations, for instance recently exposing corporations such as Stora Enso. We are also exposing the damages caused by palm oil plantations in Asia and agrofuels plantations in Africa,

[1] September 21st was declared `the international day against tree plantations' several years ago by various social movements. Every year actions are taken throughout the world to expose the problems of large scale tree plantations.

case study testimonies about the impacts of plantations

From Colombia

From Argentina (the password is RECOMA2010)

From Mexico

Watch a slide show of winning photos from our 2009 photo competition Our Biodiversity, Our Lives



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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

GM soy damages health and the environment

Press release
Wednesday 22 September, 2010

GM soy damages health and the environment
New study shows Roundup link with birth defects

A coalition of international scientists has released a report warning
of the health and environmental impacts of cultivating genetically
modified (GM) Roundup Ready soy and the associated spraying of
glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide [1].

The findings in the new report, GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible?,
challenge claims that GM soy cultivation is sustainable and that the
glyphosate herbicide it is genetically engineered to tolerate is safe
[2]. GM RoundupReady soy is the most grown GM crop worldwide, with 95%
of soy grown in Argentina and the US RoundupReady.

Soy is imported to Europe from Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil mostly
for use as animal feed. Growing demand in Europe has led to a rapid
expansion in soy cultivation in Latin America.

The report cites over 100 scientific studies into the health and
environmental impacts of glyphosate and RR soy production including
increased cases of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and growing use of

New research published by Argentine government scientist and report
co-author Professor Andrés Carrasco in August 2010 found that
glyphosate causes malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses
far lower than those used in agricultural spraying [3]. The findings
could have serious implications for people because the experimental
animals share similar developmental mechanisms with humans [4].

Carrasco said people living in soy-producing areas of Argentina began
reporting problems in 2002, two years after the first big harvests of
GM RoundupReady soy. Scientific studies now suggest links between
exposure to glyphosate herbicides and premature births, miscarriages,
cancer, and DNA damage. Glyphosate is also toxic to reproductive cells.

The report challenges the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) (an
initiative led by WWF and industry) which plans to introduce a
?responsible? soy label to the European market in early 2011. This
label has been criticised by other NGOs because it will label
RoundupReady soy as ?responsible? and because it fails to prevent

The RTRS is one of the voluntary certification schemes that will be
used by the European Commission to accredit biofuel crops as
?sustainable? under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) to meet
the EU 10% target [5].

Evidence in the report suggest that glyphosate spraying in South
America damages food crops, causes death among affected livestock, and
contributes to the death of fish. Reported health effects from
glyphosate spraying include high rates of birth defects as well as
infertility, stillbirths, miscarriages, and cancers [6]. It also
persists in soil and water and has toxic effects on the environment.

Glyphosate is marketed as ?Roundup? in Europe to home gardeners as
well as farmers and is sold as safe to use around children and pets
and as environmentally friendly. Most of the soy Europe imports for
animal and human food is GM, sprayed with glyphosate.

Critics of Argentina?s GM soy agricultural model report censorship and
harassment. In August 2010 Amnesty International called for an
investigation into a violent attack by an organised mob on people who
gathered to hear Carrasco talk about his research findings in the
agricultural town of La Leonesa [7].

Carrasco believes attention must be paid to the residents who have
reported birth defects and other health problems from glyphosate
spraying for years. He said, ?It must be remembered that the origin of
my work is my contact with the communities victimized by agrochemical
use. They are the irrefutable proof of my research.?

The report is being released together with the testimonies of
Argentine people whose lives have been affected by the rapid expansion
of GM soy in their country.

[1] GM RR Soy: Sustainable? Responsible? is published by GLS
Gemeinschaftsbank, Bochum, Germany and ARGE Gentechnik-frei, Vienna,
Austria and is available at:
Summary at:
The authors are(in alphabetical order of surname):

1.Michael Antoniou is reader in molecular genetics and head, Nuclear
Biology Group, King?s College London School of Medicine, London, UK.
2.Paulo Brack is professor, Institute of Biosciences, Federal
University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Brazil; and member, CTNBio
(National Technical Commission on Biosafety), Brazil.
3.Andrés Carrasco is professor and director of the Laboratory of
Molecular Embryology, University of Buenos Aires Medical School,
Argentina; and lead researcher of the National Council of Scientific
and Technical Research (CONICET), Argentina.
4.John Fagan is an internationally recognized authority on
agricultural biotechnology and GMO testing. He is co-founder of Earth
Open Source, a UK-based not-for-profit foundation that uses open
source collaboration to advance environmentally sustainable and
socially equitable food production.
5.Mohamed Ezz El-Din Mostafa Habib is professor and former director,
Institute of Biology, UNICAMP, São Paulo, Brazil, and provost for
extension and community affairs, UNICAMP. He is an internationally
recognized expert on ecology, entomology, agricultural pests,
environmental education, sustainability, biological control, and
6.Paulo Yoshio Kageyama is director, National Programme for
Biodiversity Conservation, ministry of the environment, Brazil; a
Fellow of the National Council of Scientific and Technological
Development (CNPq) of the ministry of science and technology, Brazil;
and professor, department of forest sciences, University of São Paulo,
7.Carlo Leifert is professor of ecological agriculture at the School
of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (AFRD), Newcastle
University, UK; and director of the Stockbridge Technology Centre Ltd
(STC), UK, a non-profit company providing R&D support for the UK
horticultural industry.
8.Rubens Onofre Nodari is professor, Federal University of Santa
Catarina, Brazil; former manager of plant genetic resources, ministry
of environment, Brazil; and a Fellow of the National Council of
Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) of the ministry of
science and technology, Brazil.
9.Walter Pengue is professor of agriculture and ecology, University of
Buenos Aires, Argentina; and scientific member, IPSRM International
Panel for Sustainable Resource Management, UNEP, United Nations.

[2] This claim has been made by the Round Table on Responsible Soy
(RTRS), a multi-stakeholder forum with a membership including NGOs
such as WWF and Solidaridad and multinational companies such as ADM,
Bunge, Cargill, Monsanto, Syngenta, Shell, and BP ?
[3] Carrasco is director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology,
University of Buenos Aires Medical School and lead researcher of the
National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET),
Argentina. The August research is:
Paganelli, A., Gnazzo, V., Acosta, H., López, S.L., Carrasco, A.E.
2010. Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on
vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signalling. Chem. Res.
Toxicol., August 9 (online publication ahead of print).
[4] Carrasco, A. 2010. Interview with journalist Dario Aranda, August
[5] The Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) was set up by WWF and
Swiss supermarket chain COOP in 2005. It aims to introduce a voluntary
label for ?responsible? soy that would reassure ethically minded
traders and consumers that the soy was produced with consideration for
people and the environment, but it has been the target of widespread
criticism. Corporate members of the RTRS include Monsanto, Syngenta,
Cargill, ADM, Rabobank, Unilever, Shell and BP. The RTRS intends to
launch the first ?responsible? soy in early 2011, most likely in the
Netherlands and Belgium.
[6] Webber, J., Weitzman, H. 2009. Argentina pressed to ban crop
chemical after health concerns. Financial Times, May 29. and others.
[7] Amnesty International. 2010. Argentina: Threats deny community
access to research. 12 August.


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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Negative impacts of tree plantations ignored by Northern consumer countries

Negative impacts of tree plantations ignored by Northern consumer countries

Urgent need to raise awareness that plantations are not forests

Paraguay, 21 September 2010 – A worldwide coalition of environmental and indigenous groups warns that international policies governing responses to climate change still promote monoculture tree plantations as a solution, despite their negative impacts on biodiversity, water resources, local communities and the climate. Today - International Day against Tree Monocultures [1] – the Global Forest Coalition urges governments, companies and international institutions to end promoting a land-use that has proven to be socially and environmentally disastrous.

"Tree plantations grown on community land in the global South provide cheap raw materials – timber, pulp, rubber, palm oil or biomass - for countries in the North while causing environmental degradation and increasing poverty in the producer countries" says Fiu Elisara, chair of the Global Forest Coalition.

"International institutions including the FAO and the World Bank falsely define industrial tree plantations as a type of forest", says Wally Menne of Timberwatch in South Africa.

"But while biodiverse forests support the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and other forest dependent people around the world, tree plantations generally produce low-quality timber for making disposable paper products, while taking away local people's land, destroying biodiversity, depleting water resources, and polluting streams and wetlands with pesticides and other agrochemicals."

Tatiana Roa Avendaño of CENSAT Agua Viva : "In Colombia, plantations are displacing rural populations, especially indigenous and Afro communities, from their territories, thereby increasing hunger and loss of food sovereignty. Moreover, plantations are also often directly destructing forests, as in Chocó in Colombia."

Plantations for wood-based bio-energy

The promotion of agrofuels and bio-energy from wood is currently leading to an increase in forest plantations. In December 2008 the European Commission (EC) approved a target of 10% renewable energy use in transportation by 2020, which has led to greatly increased agrofuel production, including woody biomass.

"The increasing demand for wood-based bio-energy is driving the expansion of plantations in developing countries, where land-grabs by foreign companies are displacing community food farmers and forest peoples from their traditional territories", says Simone Lovera, executive director of the Global Forest Coalition.

There have been recent reports of expanding tree plantations explicitly to meet the new demand for bio-energy from West Papua, the Republic of Congo and Guyana. [2]


The global timber industry claims that tree plantations can play a significant role in mitigating climate change, by sequestering atmospheric carbon. However, studies show that real forests store much more carbon than plantations, which are usually temporary, quickly releasing the carbon back into the atmosphere after they are cut down and the logs processed into throw-away commodities like disposable nappies and tissue paper. Large-scale, fast-growing tree plantations destroy natural vegetation and cropland, degrade and erode soils, and together with the use of chemical fertilizer and herbicides, cause the release of large volumes of greenhouse gases.


[1] In 2004, September 21st was declared as International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations by a number of organizations throughout the world. On this day, people in every continent carry out actions to generate awareness on the impacts of large scale tree monocultures on local communities and their environments. For more information, see

[2] Report : Wood-based bio-energy: the green lie. The Global Forest Coalition, May 2010

- - -
The Global Forest Coalition is an international coalition of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples organizations defending social justice and the rights of forest peoples in forest policies.
The Timberwatch Coalition is an alliance of South African non-governmental organizations and individuals that are concerned about the negative impacts of industrial tree plantations on people and the environment.

CENSAT Aqua Viva (Friends of the Earth Colombia) is campaign on today's most urgent environmental and social issues.


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Southern U.S. States Targeted for Genetically Engineered Tree Plantations


International Day Against Tree Monocultures

Southern U.S. States Targeted for Genetically Engineered Tree Plantations

From: STOP GE Trees Campaign / Global Justice Ecology Project / Dogwood Alliance

*****New short video clip on Tree Monocultures and GE Trees*****

United States--Today is the International Day Against Tree Monocultures [1]. Across the globe, timber plantations are wreaking havoc on forests and forest dependent communities. Now, to further exacerbate this damage, genetically engineered trees (or GE trees) pose a new and unprecedented threat.

The Dogwood Alliance's Executive Director, Danna Smith said, "The USDA recently approved a request by GE tree company ArborGen, headquartered in South Carolina, to plant over a quarter of a million genetically engineered eucalyptus trees across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and South Carolina, —many of the same regions still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill. This would be another disaster for the region."

Like kudzu, eucalyptus trees are wildly invasive, and spread into native ecosystems, displacing wildlife. Additionally, the oil in these eucalyptus trees is extremely flammable. California spends millions each year to eradicate invasive eucalyptus because of the threat of wildfires. In 2009 over 200 people were killed in Australia in a firestorm fuelled by eucalyptus. It was the worst fire in the country's history.

Please go to for a new short video clip launched today in conjunction with this release that further exposes the threat of GE trees.

On July 1, 2010 Global Justice Ecology Project, Dogwood Alliance, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, and the International Center for Technology Assessment filed a lawsuit to stop ArborGen's GE eucalyptus due to their potential impacts [2].

"It's time for people to understand that GE trees must be banned and that plantations are not forests," remarked Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project Co-Director/Strategist.

NOTES to Editors: [1] In 2004, September 21st was declared the International Day Against Tree Monocultures by organizations throughout the world. On this day, people in every continent carry out actions to generate awareness about the impacts of large scale tree monocultures on communities and their environments. For more info, see

[2] For background on the lawsuit:


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Oil palm plantations on peatlands won't get carbon credits under CDM

Date: September 20, 2010 2:21:37 PM ED
Subject:Oil palm plantations on peatlands won't get carbon credits under CDM

Oil palm plantations on peatlands won't get carbon credits under CDM
September 19, 2010

Plantations on peatlands will no longer be supported by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a framework for industrialized countries to reduce their emissions via projects in developing countries, reports Wetlands International.

The decision, which came last Friday during the executive board meeting, will bar biofuel plantations established on peatlands from earning carbon credits that could then be sold to industrialized countries to "offset" emissions. The concern is that under the CDM, carbon finance is used to perversely subsidize conversion of carbon-dense peatlands for oil palm plantations, a process that generates substantial greenhouse gas emissions, thereby undermining any potential carbon dioxide savings from use of palm oil-based biodiesel.

"We are very relieved that within a year, the CDM Board has decided to revise the existing methodology," said Marcel Silvius of Wetlands International in a statement. "This decision now ends a perverse incentive for development of plantations on peatlands."

A Wetlands International statement explains:
    Last year, the CDM Executive Board approved a methodology that now gave till last week CDM credits to biodiesel plantations on so-called 'degraded lands' in developing countries. The CDM allows industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to reduce their emissions via projects in developing countries. Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets. This methodology was meant to stimulate sequestration of carbon via replanting of degraded, devegetated land areas with renewable energy crops as alternative for conventional diesel.

    In practice, this methodology gave an additional financial boast to new palm oil plantations on the logged peatswamps in Southeast Asia. These 'degraded' lands however still contain large amounts of carbon in the case of water logged organic peat soils. This carbon will be rapidly released upon drainage for plantations.
Research led by Dr. Susan Page University of Leicester found that producing one ton of palm oil on peatland generates 15 to 70 tons of CO2 over 25 years as a result of forest conversion, peat decomposition and emission from fires associated with land clearance. In other words, biodiesel produced under such conditions has a greater climate impact than conventional fossil fuels.

As such, environmental groups are calling for a moratorium on the conversion of peatlands for biofuel production. Already about 33% of all oil palm is on peat, according to Wetlands International.

The decision by the CDM Executive Board now removes one incentive from peatland conversion, although developers—especially in Indonesia—are still targeting peat swamps for expansion. Peat lands tend to be cheaper and more available than other soil types suitable for oil palm cultivation.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

37% of Ghana's Farmland Recolonized

37% of Ghana's Farmland Recolonized

Feature Article | Sat, 18 Sep 2010

Posted by xcroc
In the quest for biofuel plantations, and for export food crops, foreign countries and corporations are grabbing land, "using methods that hark back to the darkest days of colonialism" in Ghana and throughout Africa.

Foreign companies now control 37 percent of Ghana cropland. The spread of jatropha is pushing small farmers, and particularly women farmers off their land. Valuable food sources such as shea nut and dawadawa trees have been cleared to make way for plantations.

A total of 769,000 ha has been acquired by foreign companies such as Agroils (Italy), Galten Global Alternative Energy (Israel), Gold Star Farms (Ghana), Jatropha Africa (UK/Ghan), Biofuel Africa (Norway), ScanFuel (Norway) and Kimminic Corporation (Canada). According to the CIA World Fact Book Ghana has 3.99 million ha arable land with 2.075 million ha under permanent crops. This means that more than 37 percent of Ghana's cropland has been grabbed for the plantation of jatropha.

Read more:

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EU sued for lack of transparency

EU sued for lack of transparency

By Jennifer Rankin
20.09.2010 / 18:45 CET
Green groups take Council and Commission to court over access to documents and biofuel policy.
In a separate move, the Commission is being sued by Client Earth for so-called "attempts to manipulate the science guiding European biofuels policy". The lawsuit, backed by three other environmental groups, is the second legal challenge on EU biofuel policy from the same group.
In March, Client Earth and the three green groups (Transport and Environment, the European Environmental Bureau and BirdLife International) announced that they were suing the Commission for not releasing important documents in line with transparency rules.

Today's case centres on a Commission-funded study that showed biofuel in a positive light, but was subsequently shown to be based on misleading assumptions chosen by the Commission.

Read more:

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Plantations on peatlands will no longer be supported by the CDM

Plantations on peatlands will no longer be supported by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a framework for industrialized countries to reduce their emissions via projects in developing countries, reports Wetlands International.

The decision, which came last Friday during the executive board meeting, will bar biofuel plantations established on peatlands from earning carbon credits that could then be sold to industrialized countries to "offset" emissions. The concern is that under the CDM, carbon finance is used to perversely subsidize conversion of carbon-dense peatlands for oil palm plantations, a process that generates substantial greenhouse gas emissions, thereby undermining any potential carbon dioxide savings from use of palm oil-based biodiesel.

Read more:

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Jatropha Boom Yields Tough Lessons

Jatropha Boom Yields Tough Lessons
By Manipadma Jena

HYDERABAD, India, Sep 20, 2010 (IPS) - With a gas-guzzler of an economy, India had been spending tens of billions of dollars annually to import petroleum. And so its 2009 policy on biofuels mandated that by 2017, India would have enough biofuel production to cover at least 20 percent of the country's oil consumption.

The government has in fact been encouraging the cultivation of jatropha curcas for the past seven years, believing that would be the fastest way to have the volume of biofuel the country would need – 13 million tonnes, or 30 times more biodiesel than what is being produced at present.

But now, even green groups are saying India's biofuel efforts have fallen into a rut.

In fact, Suneel Parasnis, Asia coordinator of Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN), a multilateral agency bringing innovative clean energy projects to interested investors, says, "Biofuels have failed because of unavailability and high price of stock feed for biodiesel processing plants all over India."

Yet banker-turned-biofuel producer Sreenivas Ghatty retorts, "That's because we put the cart before the horse."

Indeed, inadequate preparation and understanding seem to have been major contributors to India's bumpy trip of its biofuel programme. But so too has been the greed of fly-by- night operators who made quick profits by selling seeds, saplings, and unrealistic dreams of profit to gullible farmers.

At first glance, jatropha seemed to be the perfect biofuel source for India, just as it has been touted for many developing countries. For one, it was touted for having the ability to grow on `waste' land, thus skirting a fuel- versus-food conflict. For another, each of its seeds can have as much as 40-percent oil content. The plant itself is carbon-neutral as well, absorbing as much carbon dioxide as it releases later as fuel.

A federal planning commission report in 2003 also said that potentially 36 million hectares in India – mostly government waste and forest land, land beside railway tracks and protective hedge around private agro-farms – were ideal for jatropha plantations. By 2006, many Indian farmers and oil companies were growing jatropha, their enthusiasm fuelled by land and tax incentives offered by the government.

Farmers have since discovered that jatropha produces much higher yields on fertile, irrigated land and needs chemical fertilisers as well. And while it may survive on `waste' land, it will not grow in volumes that would pay off for small-time farmers.

"One of the biggest problems is having farmers pull out of jatropha before fruit- bearing starts by the third year," says K Koteshwar Rao of Nandan Biomatrix, an integrated biofuel research-producer here in Hyderabad, which recently acquired global patents for higher oil-yield genotypes of jatropha. "For the next 35 years they need only tend and harvest, but they run out of patience."

"We are (also) advising multi-cropping of dryland legumes, pulses, and oilseeds to sustain the initial no- income period," he adds.

According to Rao, one jatropha shrub at its full-grown height of three metres would need "up to two litres of survival watering per non-rainy day".

"One deep bore well could suffice for a 50-hectare plantation," he adds. "Nutrient requirement per hectare works out to 50 to70 kilogramme nitrogen, 50 kg phosphorous, 70 kg potassium, along with 30 kg sulphur."

"Going for large-scale plantations without the proper set of practices is risky, and more importance should be given to research and development work focusing on the genetic improvement of the species, and agronomic practices," he cautions.

Unsurprisingly, state governments that had proactively established separate entities to promote jatropha biodiesel just five years ago are less enthusiastic today.

The central state of Chhattisgarh, for instance, was revving up to become India's jatropha hub in 2005. A check of Chhattisgarh Bio-fuel Development Authority's website reveals that the last entry under its `achievements' is dated September 2007.

Big-time investors, however, remain attracted by the prospect of biofuel profits – and sometimes use questionable means to get these, say activists.

"Land grabs by private biofuel investors are high in poorest and least resistant areas in eastern state of Orissa and Central India," says activist Puspanjali Satpathy of the Bhubaneswar-based environmental non-profit group Vasundhara.

Just this year in Bolangir, Orissa, private enterprises, including a technical college, lured farmers into growing jatropha by offering 175 U.S. dollar loans to buy seeds and saplings. Under the scheme, the loans would be repaid from jatropha seed harvests. But the deal has apparently been set up in such a way that by harvest time three years later, the farmers would have already lost these very lands to an irrigation project there.

In Patnagarh, in the same district in Orissa, about 162 hectares were bought by a Delhi-based private enterprise in 2005. But now the former landowners – local farmers – say that they had been led to think the deal, which they say had been brokered by district officials, was a three-year lease agreement. The angry villagers are taking legal recourse to get back their land.

All these have left firm biofuel believers like Ghatty frustrated. Now a consultant based in Melbourne, Australia, Ghatty insists, "(Alternative) energy sources need to be developed – there are no two ways about that. Biofuels are the cheapest and the most sustainable alternative." He points out that jatropha biodiesel can be produced and consumed locally in remote areas – to run irrigation pumps and lighter transport vehicles, and light up homes. But, he says, the policies for grassroots energy security must be clear-cut.

These policies "should lead to energy self-sufficiency in regional, remote areas, promoting area development", says Satpathy. "But first, we need a social audit on biofuels." (END)


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Canada Invests In Quebec Wind And Biodiesel

Canada Invests In Quebec Wind And Biodiesel
Date: 15-Sep-10
Country: CANADA
Author: Nicole Mordan

The Canadian government will invest nearly C$84 million ($81 million) in two clean energy ventures in the province of Quebec over the next decade, it announced on Tuesday.
The government announced a C$65 million injection over 10 years in two wind farms in the Gaspe region in Eastern Quebec.

The two farms, Carleton and L'Anse-a-Valleau, are owned by Cartier Wind Energy Inc and are capable of producing enough electricity to power up to 60,000 homes.
The funds come from the government's C$1.5 billion ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program.

Earlier on Tuesday, Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis also announced a C$18.79 million investment over seven years in biofuel producer Biocardel Quebec Inc.
Biocardel will produce about 40 million liters of biodiesel a year.

The biodiesel will be made from converted vegetable or cooking oil or animal fat and will be sold to diesel producers in Quebec, the Atlantic provinces and possibly the United States.
(Reporting by Nicole Mordant; Editing by Peter Galloway)
© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved

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36% of this year's US corn crop expected to be used for ethanol

Agriculture Secretary, Producers Confident On Ethanol Hike
Date: 20-Sep-10
Country: USA
Author: Timothy Gardner, Charles Abbott and Tom Doggett

U.S. regulators are likely to approve a higher blend of ethanol in U.S. gasoline shortly, an ethanol producers group and the top U.S. agriculture official each said on Friday, and the new fuel mix could be selling at the pump by next spring.

Ethanol companies and corn traders are anxiously awaiting a decision from the Environmental Protection Agency -- expected within weeks -- for a waiver to allow cars built in 2007 and after to burn regular gasoline blended with ethanol levels of 15 percent, a fuel that would be known as E15.

The ethanol blend level now is 10 percent.
While proponents have long argued that American automobiles can handle the higher blend without significant damage to the engine, the decision to move to E15 has been delayed twice to allow for more testing.

Growth Energy, an industry group representing a coalition of ethanol producers that petitioned for the higher rate, also said it anticipated a positive outcome.

"We expect that within a few months after the announcement E15 will be available," said a spokeswoman for Growth Energy days after meeting on the issue with EPA chief Lisa Jackson.

The higher blends could be available by March or April of next year assuming the EPA makes two approvals for use of E15 in 2001 cars and newer models by the end of the year, the spokeswoman said.

Asked about the ruling, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters that he expected the EPA to approve higher blends for some cars by early-to-mid October, in line with a target that the agency itself had given several months ago.

"I expect that they will see that E15 is an appropriate fuel for some vehicles. I don't know if they will necessarily say it is appropriate for all vehicles, but for some vehicles which will help us expand the market," he said.

Approval of the new fuel could help producers such as Archer Daniels Midland, oil refiner Valero Energy Corp, and private company Poet, the biggest U.S. ethanol producer, and potentially give fresh legs to a rally in U.S. corn futures, which have surged more than 55 percent in three months.

Ethanol produced in the United States is predominantly distilled from corn.
Jackson, the EPA chief, told Growth this week that the first phase of higher blend testing on cars, which the Department of Energy is conducting, is on schedule and should be completed by the end of September.

Jackson said the EPA should decide shortly after that testing is completed whether to allow E15 in 2007- and later-model cars.

Testing on vehicles built between 2001 and 2006 is on track to be completed by the end of November, Jackson said. "At which point we expect to make a decision on a waiver that would cover 2001 to 2006 model year vehicles." she told Growth.

The EPA would not give further guidance on Friday on the timing of the tests.

The auto industry has urged the government to conduct full tests for E15 because it is worried that the fuel could corrode fuel lines and damage engines.

But ethanol producers are suffering from a glut of the fuel and say they need approval for the higher blends to help draw down supply. They say the oversupply has been created by government mandates, first issued when George W. Bush was president, that require increasing amounts of ethanol to be blended in the overall fuel supply.

The Renewable Fuel Standard requires energy companies to blend 15 billion gallons of corn-based fuel a year into the gasoline supply by 2015, up from 12 billion gallons this year.
A delay in the decision could slow the ethanol industry's recovery from the recession and a subsequent shakeout of distillers.

Corn prices have zoomed in recent weeks, with futures prices topping $5 a bushel on Friday for the first time since early October 2008. The rally has been fueled by USDA forecasts of tighter supplies and demand for grain to offset drought losses in Russia.

Some 36 percent of this year's corn crop is expected to go to fuel ethanol production. Vilsack said E15 would not harm U.S. grain or food supplies because new feedstocks, such as woody biomass and perennial grasses, are being developed.
(Editing by Jim Marshall)
© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved

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Where there's bugs, there's brass

This is a follow up to a piece in Digest Number 1350

"A British company that uses a genetically modified compost-heap bug to produce biofuel from rubbish has signed a $500m (£319m) contract with a US firm."


Where there's bugs, there's brass: UK firm lands $500m biofuel contract

TMO Renewables wins contract with US firm Fiberight using its 'turbo-charged' GM bacteria that convert rubbish into biofuels

tmo biofuel-creating bacteria TMO Renewable's bacteria converts rubbish and waste into biofuels

A British company that uses a genetically modified compost-heap bug to produce biofuel from rubbish has signed a $500m (£319m) contract with a US firm.

TMO Renewables developed a strain of "turbo-charged" bacteria that can turn tea bags, cardboard, wood and other household waste into fuel for cars and trucks. The Guildford-based company signed a 20-year, $25m-a-year deal with US firm Fiberight.

The technology is part of a wave of "second generation" biofuels that are not made from crop plants. The use of rubbish is aimed at addressing concerns that growing plants for fuel will raise food prices.

"With TMO's bacteria on board, which speeds up the breakdown of cellulose in the waste, the efficiency with which we convert rubbish into bioethanol will rise by around 35%," said Craig Stuart-Paul, chief executive of Iowa-based Fiberight. "[TMO Renewables] is three to five years ahead of most of its competition in the US."

In 2008, TMO Renewables built the UK's first bioethanol plant that runs on grasses, cardboard and other waste. Key to its success was the incorporation of genetically engineered bacteria that can break down cellulose into simpler sugars, which can then be fermented to produce bioethanol. The TMO process relies on a strain of bacteria known as TM242 which grows at high temperatures of around 60C. "It has an unusually broad appetite, such that Fiberight's process will be able to turn waste into bioethanol is just 24 hours," said Hamish Curran, CEO of TMO Renewables. The Fiberight deal is TMO's first commercial contract.

"We can finally roll out a technology that will truly break the mould of fuel generation. It's going to reduce how much garbage ends up in landfill generating methane, and provide extremely sustainable transport fuels," he added. In the next five years, 15 plants using TMO's process will be built.

Stuart-Paul said the potential market in the US is considerable. By 2011, US legislation calls for 17.1m gallons of bioethanol to be used in cars. "We're going to be making 50% of that," he said.According to Curran, developing TMO's process in the US rather than in the UK was a logical and commercially attractive proposition. "The US government is substantially ahead of Europe, and in particular the UK when it comes to making biofuel companies feel welcome. The debate the UK had last week about scaling back biofuel production is just another example of this."

Claire Wenner, head of biomass and transport at the Renewable Energy Association in London, agrees. "It's just so sad that we are losing these companies to the US," she said. "Why aren't we building these plants in the UK? Sustainable development in the UK keeps getting knocked back by skittish politicians. We just need to go for it, like the US is."

Next up, TMO hopes to partner with companies in China. "Shanghai has 20 million people and Beijing has 19 million so there's an awful lot of waste that's ready to be turned into bioethanol. What's more, there's not much room in China for landfills and China's biofuel mandates are more advanced than they are in Europe, so yes we're interested."

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mobilisation meeting - EU biofuels policy - 4-5 October Brussels

Dear biofuel campaigners!
(with apologies for cross-posting)

Some of you have heard (others have not) news of an important meeting we (Friends of the Earth Europe and NGO partners) are organising on 4-5 October in Brussels

The meeting is intended for concerned NGOs and biofuels campaigners.

The aim is to plan and galvanise a European-wide mobilisation to persuade the EU to take the CO2 impacts of biofuels seriously.

You are invited!

As many of you may be aware, this is a crucial time for biofuels campaigning - the European Commission has launched a big consultation on indirect land use change (ILUC), and is expected to produce legislation at the end of the year. 

Currently, according the the EU, biofuels for transport count as 'carbon neutral' - even though they are anything but!  We need to persuade the EU to acknowledge the real damage that biofuels cause to the world's forests and climate - specifically through 'indirect land use change'.  If we are to win this one, we NGOs and activists need to mount a big and coordinated EU-wide response.  It can't be done from Brussels alone, so we really need you to mobilise with us. 

So if you are an NGO or biofuels campaigner, it would be great if you can come on 4-5 October, so we can learn about this issue in depth, and make plans for how to lobby our governments and the EU, and win this campaign.

Please come!
  • Who:  Friends of the Earth Europe and partners (Transport & Environment, Birdlife International (RSPB), Greenpeace, ActionAid, Client Earth, European Environment Bureau, Fern)
  • What: a meeting of European-wide NGOs and campaigners who are concerned about biofuels; a mass lobby of MEPs
  • Where:  Brussels in Mundo B (see directions here)
  • When:  4 October 9:00-17:00 (meeting); MEP lobby on 5 October
  • Why: to plan, collaborate, and get skilled up, in order to persuade the EU Commission to admit and account for the impacts of biofuels on climate change through causing indirect land use change
Here's what you need to do:
  1. Send an RSVP to myself and to let us know what country and organisation you are from
  2. Book a meting with your MEP ( can help you get in contact with them)
  3. Book a travel ticket and a hotel (I can get you some details if you need)
  4. Fill out a questionnaire so we can find out more about biofuels activity -
  5. Come on 4 October!
Any questions, please ask me <>

Thanks very much - I look forward to seeing many of you here.


--  Robbie Blake Food, Agriculture & Biodiversity team  Friends of the Earth Europe Rue d’Edimbourg 26, 1050 Brussels, Belgium Email: Tel: (+32) (0)2 893 1017 Skype: robbie.foee 

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EPA to phase in E-15 ethanol rules

Biofuels are a critical component of a clean energy future. This is why the Obama Administration is working with the biofuels industry to provide research dollars and technical assistance to help grow the industry and bring new fuels into the market. EPA has aggressively worked to ensure the successful implementation of the long-term renewable fuels mandate of 36 billion gallons by 2022. The Agency understands the importance of its decisions regarding higher ethanol blends.

What is the status of the E-15 waiver request?

• In response to the E-15 waiver request, EPA worked with DOE, who undertook a multi-million dollar testing regimen that will provide the information EPA needs to make a sound, technically correct and legally supportable decision.
• Consistent with national protocols and in conformance with engineering best practices, the testing program has included hundreds of vehicles, including 82 vehicles undergoing full useful life testing. And in order to accelerate timetables and collect sufficient lifetime emissions performance data, full useful life testing of vehicles is ongoing 24 hours a day at essentially all of the independent test facilities in North America. Under this accelerated protocol each vehicle requires testing for 6-9 months.
• By the end of this September, DOE testing on newer vehicles (covering the 2007 and younger motor vehicle fleet) will be completed and EPA plans to take action on the waiver request regarding the use of E-15 in those vehicles. If those test results support E15, then EPA will also propose a labeling rule at that time on fuel dispensing equipment.
• In November, DOE testing on vehicles covering the 2001-2006 model years will also be complete and EPA can then make a further determination on the use of E-15 for these vehicles. Again, if these tests are positive, then the label will be adjusted to reflect the expanded use of E-15 before the rule is finalized.
• It's also important to remember that there are a number of additional steps that must be completed – many of which are not under EPA or DOE control – to allow the sale and distribution of E-15. These include but are not limited to: testing on dispensing equipment; changes to state laws to allow for the use of E15; and completion of the fuels registration process by industry.
What about older vehicles and non-road engines?

• Although we continue to evaluate all available information, it has become clear that insufficient data have been submitted on the use of E-15 in older vehicles and non-road engines (such as chain saws and marine engines) to enable EPA to make a decision on a waiver that would allow the use of E-15 for these engines. EPA will of course review any relevant data that is submitted prior to making its decision.

Brian Tokar
Institute for Social Ecology
P.O. Box 93
Plainfield, VT 05667

* My new book, "Toward Climate Justice," is now available at

* See our updated website at


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E-15 Status Update July 2010

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GM bacteria secrete diesel compounds

NY Times, September 13, 2010
Biotech Company to Patent Fuel-Secreting Bacterium

A biotech company plans to announce Tuesday that it has won a patent on a genetically altered bacterium that converts sunlight and carbon dioxide into ingredients of diesel fuel, a step that could provide a new pathway for making ethanol or a diesel replacement that skips several cumbersome and expensive steps in existing methods.

The bacterium's product, which it secretes like sweat, is a class of hydrocarbon molecules called alkanes that are chemically indistinguishable from the ones made in oil refineries. The organism can grow in bodies of water unfit for drinking or on land that is useless for farming, according to the company, Joule Unlimited of Cambridge, Mass.

"We make very clean, sulfur-free hydrocarbons that drop directly into the existing infrastructure for the production of diesel fuel," said William J. Sims, the chief executive of Joule. The object, he said, was not to be an alternative for fossil fuels, but "to become a viable replacement."

Joule said it was the first company to patent an organism that secretes hydrocarbon fuel made continuously, directly from sunlight. Other companies, including Amyris Biotechnologies of Emeryville, Calif., and LS9 of San Carlos, Calif., are working on organisms that will make fuel if fed sugar from corn or cellulosic sources, but Joule's bacterium does not require any sugar. Another company, Aurora Algae of Alameda, Calif., said Monday that it had developed an algae-based platform for production of fuel, pharmaceuticals and other valuable chemicals.

Development of a photosynthetic organism to make hydrocarbons is "an important step," said Eric J. Toone, the deputy director for technology at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a new agency within the Energy Department that makes grants for high-risk, high-reward projects. But Mr. Toone and others cautioned that there were other steps to be mastered before such a technology could be commercialized.

The organism is a cyanobacterium, also known as blue-green algae, although it is technically not an algae. It produces the fuel using photosynthesis, the process that plants use to make sugars and other materials from water, carbon dioxide and sunlight.

Alternative energy experts agree that photosynthesis is a promising avenue for biofuel research. The challenge is turning the resulting product into a fuel. Many companies are trying to develop an algae to do that job. But it requires energy to separate the algae from the water and then process the oil they make internally into a usable fuel. An organism that secretes the desired product directly avoids both problems.

In a test in Leander, Tex., Joule's bacteria strain produced ethanol. Different variants can also make polymers and other high-value chemicals that are ordinarily derived from petroleum, according to Joule.

The system can run on the carbon dioxide in ordinary air but will do better using the exhaust from a power plant, once pollutants like sulfur and nitrogen oxides have been removed, according to the company.

Joule said it would begin construction next year on a commercial plant, which it hopes will begin operations in 2012. The company predicts a yield of 15,000 gallons of diesel components per acre — far more fuel than an acre of corn grown for ethanol can produce.

Mr. Sims says the pilot project covers a little less than five acres. Because the process is modular, he said, a full-scale factory would simply mean making multiple copies of a smaller setup. And with a small amount of refining, he said, the hydrocarbons can be converted to an ingredient of jet fuel.

An independent expert, Matthew C. Posewitz, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines, said that making an organism that secreted hydrocarbons was "definitely one of the most active areas in the whole game right now."

He said that Joule did not yet have a proved process, but that it had strong research and development capabilities. "They have some extreme horsepower within that company," he said.

Brian Tokar
Institute for Social Ecology
P.O. Box 93
Plainfield, VT 05667

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Growing Fuel Instead of Food: Agro-fuels in Chiapas

Growing Fuel Instead of Food: Agro-fuels in Chiapas
Written by Jessica Davies
Tuesday, 24 August 2010

[Article about the impacts of palm oil and jatropha for agrofuels in Chiapas - With reference to plans for agrofuels for aviation]

Growing Fuel Instead of Food: Agro-fuels in Chiapas

Written by Jessica Davies
Tuesday, 24 August 2010 12:25

“Capitalism also makes its wealth from plunder, or theft, because they take what they want from others, land, for example, and natural resources...... they also want to privatize electricity and water and the forests and everything, until nothing of Mexico is left, and our country will be a wasteland or a place of entertainment for rich people from all over the world,.....but there are Mexican men and women who are organizing and making a resistance struggle.... there are indigenous, and they are making their autonomy and defending their culture and caring for their land, forests and water” - from the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle.

The state government promotes expansion of the cultivation of agro-fuels

In November 2008 La Jornada correspondent Hermann Bellinghausen defined 'the four horsemen of progress' for Chiapas: tourist development, mineral exploitation (mining), oil, and 'biocombustibles'. The latter are commonly known in Latin America as agro-fuels, to remove any connotation of environmental benefit that 'bio'-fuels might suggest. The four horsemen are four routes used by multinational corporations, in conjunction with the Mexican (and US) government, to steal and plunder the land and its natural resources, the rivers and forests, the mountains and valleys, and to evict and destroy the indigenous peoples, their lands and territories. It is the resistance against these four horsemen that Hermann records and celebrates with such dedication.

The article records that as part of the Mesoamerica Project, the federal and state governments had agreed to build an agro-fuel power plant in 2009, and had set aside 3000 hectares of land to grow enough Jatropha to produce 10,000 litres of fuel daily from this plant. Much of this land was in zones adjoining ecological reserves, and this scheme had generated considerable opposition, particularly from “the Zapatista autonomous municipalities, communities of the Other Campaign and other independent organisations”.

In August 2009, the governor of Chiapas, Juan Sabines, with representatives from ten Mesoamerican countries in attendance, opened an agro-diesel plant in Puerto Chiapas, which was intended to produce more than 12,000 litres of agro-diesel per day from Jatropha and oil palm. This factory was built using Colombian technology and expertise. Two similar plants in Mexico, funded by the state at a cost of $US 500,000, had previously been abandoned due to the lack of a market for this relatively expensive form of fuel.

Use of agro-fuels for aviation

In July 2010 a meeting was held in Chiapas entitled “Flight-Plan toward Sustainable Bio-fuels for Aviation in Mexico”, aimed “towards the promotion of a larger vision for the use of agro-fuels in Mexico's aviation sector” (It should be noted here that Mexico's largest airline, Mexicana de Aviacion, filed for bankruptcy at the end of July 2010). During the event, the president of the National Institute of Ecology (INE), Adrián Fernández Bremauntz, said that Chiapas is the state that has most promoted the cultivation of agro-fuels in Mexico; he said Chiapas has dedicated 50,000 hectares to the production of palm oil and 10,000 to Jatropha. Gilberto López Meyer, director general of Airports and Auxiliary Services (ASA), made the assertion that the expansion of the cultivation of agro-fuels “would, if carried out, result in a better quality of life for the residents of this planet.” Chiapas state governor, Juan Sabines Guerrero, claimed that the example set by his government could serve to put an end to the problems of poverty in Mexico and of climate change in general. He added that the state of Chiapas will always remember President Calderón as the great promoter of agro-diesel. These astonishing claims merit closer attention.

The loss and destruction of indigenous lands

In Colombia, the source of the industrial expertise now being used in Chiapas, the agro-fuels industry has resulted in the deforestation of vast areas, where all the campesino and indigenous communities have been forcibly evicted from their lands to make way for oil palm and other agro-fuel crops.

All over the world, indigenous peoples and forests are suffering in the same way. A report presented to the
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), meeting in New York in 2008, referred to 'increasing human rights violations, displacements and conflicts due to expropriation of ancestral lands and forests for agro-fuel plantations.' One of the report's authors, UNPFII chairperson Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, said that if agro-fuels expansion continues as planned, 60 million indigenous people worldwide are threatened with losing their land and livelihoods.

In November 2009, the highly respected movement for tribal peoples, Survival International, released a report entitled
'the most inconvenient truth of all: climate change and indigenous people' which shows how measures to stop global warming risk being as harmful to original peoples as climate change itself. The report sets out the four key threats:

- Agro-fuels, “much of the land allocated to grow them is the ancestral land of tribal people”

- Hydro-electric power, which leads to dams being built and land being lost

- 'Forest Conservation', i.e. the eviction of indigenous people in the name of conservation, as in the Montes Azules biosphere reserve

- Carbon offsetting, which leads to forced evictions and the stealing of indigenous lands.

The report concludes: “the world's indigenous people, who have done the least to cause climate change and are most affected by it, are now having their rights violated and land devastated in the name of attempts to stop it”.

Food insecurity: 'a crime against humanity'

“Hunger is palpable in Mexico. Beggars line the streets of the cities with their bowls and their children, pleading for coins: 'Para comer, Senor, para comer?' Whole families rifle through the trash bins in front of the fast food franchises hunting for discarded scraps”. - John Ross

According to the 2008 findings of Mexico's National Evaluation Council on Social Development (CONEVAL), nearly 49 million Mexicans - over 46 percent of the country's population - were then suffering from some form of food insecurity. Included within these 49 million are 11.2 million individuals who consume less than the line at which CONEVAL marks the base-line of extreme material poverty, in addition to nearly 2 million 'chronically malnourished' children. The report found that 26.3% of people in Chiapas were suffering moderate or severe food insecurity at the time of research.

Figures just released by CONEVAL (July 2010) show that poverty in Mexico is increasing. In the last quarter of 2009 food poverty rose by 6.8 percent, which means that from 2008 to 2009 the number of people living in some degree of food insecurity increased by 3.2 million people, making a total to date of 52 million. This means that half the population of Mexico do not have enough to eat.

World Bank statistics from 2006 showed that 15.5% of Mexican children under 5 were stunted by malnutrition. Hunger in Mexico is especially acute among indigenous groups; CONEVAL's 2008 report states that 33.2% of indigenous Mexican children under 5 are stunted through malnutrition. Chiapas has a high indigenous population.

The Mexican government aims to have 200,000 hectares of its productive lands dedicated to agro-fuel production by 2013, despite the fact that the growing of plants for agro-fuels is increasingly becoming a serious threat to food security, especially for those already vulnerable to malnutrition. The cultivation of agro-fuels competes with the production of crops for human consumption, and agro-fuel plantations also require far more water than other crops.

The state government of Chiapas is committed to expanding the production of agro-fuels in order to maintain the position of Chiapas as the leading state in agro-diesel production in the country. Thousands of hectares where people used to grow crops for their own needs have been replaced with plants that can be converted into fuels, thus putting the most vulnerable and impoverished sections of the community at risk of hunger, malnutrition, even starvation.

Jean Ziegler, former Special Rapporteur for the United Nations on the Right to Food, declared the production of agro-fuels to represent a “crime against humanity."

Jatropha curcus, pinion, or the Black Vomit Nut

This plant, a native of Central America, is not a food plant. In fact it has toxic properties, which can affect humans and animals. As few as three seeds have been found to produce a toxic reaction, leading to the plant being banned in parts of India. There are already more than 10,000 hectares of this plant growing in Chiapas. It is popular because it can be grown in dry, marginal soils, but these are often the only lands available to indigenous peoples. Hermann Bellinghausen records how already millions of jatropha seeds have been distributed among campesinos throughout Chiapas, including the Lacandon Jungle area. He also reports how communities engaged in the tree-planting programme Proárbol have been given seeds of jatropha instead of trees to plant.

Palm oil, 'the forest-eater'

There are two main types of Oil Palm, the African Oil Palm, Elaeis guineensis, native to west Africa between Angola and Gambia, and the American Oil Palm, Elaeis oleifera, native to tropical Central America and South America. Under a scheme called "productive reconversion" 50,000 hectares of the Chiapas countryside no longer grow food crops, they are now planted with African palm in a scheme designed to make the countryside more profitable, even though the crop is recognised to cause substantial, often irreversible, damage to the natural environment. There are now six oil palm extraction plants in Chiapas, and it is planned to have 100,000 hectares under cultivation by 2012.

Monoculture oil palm plantations are one of the main causes of deforestation. In the words of the World Rainforest Movement, they “replace tropical forests and other ecosystems, leading to loss of biodiversity, flooding, the worsening of droughts, soil erosion, pollution of water courses and the apparition of pests due to a breakdown in the ecological balance and to changes in food chains”. Oil palm plantations are great consumers of water, deplete fresh water sources, and jeopardize the availability of water in their area. The plantations require agrochemicals that poison workers and local communities and contaminate soil and water.

Oil palm in the Lacandon Jungle

There is also the question of land evictions, the forcible removal of peoples from their lands to provide areas for oil palm cultivation. The following alert was released in February 2010: "Families from the Biosphere of Montes Azules, Lacandon Jungle, are being evicted from their land in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The evictions, being forced by police operations, are to make way for palm oil plantations. Friends of the Earth International call on you to demand an end to the evictions and the proposed developments."

The Latin American Network against Monoculture Tree Plantations (RECOMA) reported “Last January, the Chiapas State Congress approved funding for the construction of a palm oil processing plant. Shortly afterwards, dozens of families were evicted from their territory, in order to give way for the expansion of monoculture oil palm plantations. Heavily armed police arrived in helicopters and with aggressive violence evicted men, women and children from their homes, which they then burnt down and, with no explanation, removed the community to the city of Palenque. While the government talks about conservation and protection of the zone, it evicts those who have been truly responsible for making this conservation possible. At the same time, it replaces local ecosystems by oil palm monocultures”.

The evictions in this area are part of a plan of seizure of indigenous lands, not only for oil palm plantations, but also for the creation of luxury 'eco-tourism' complexes, construction of roads, dams, and airports, and the plundering of natural resources - timber, water, oil, minerals.

Deforestation of the Montes Azules biosphere reserve has now reached 80 per cent. Over 40 communities have now been evicted from the area. One of the two communities uprooted from their lands in the January 2010 displacements described above was a Zapatista support base settlement. A Zapatista spokesperson stated, “To make the situation clear to the public about the new phase of aggression that has restarted against our compañer@s ... we made public our position regarding the defence of the Mother Earth in a written declaration dated 23rd January 2010. In this declaration we clearly stated that we would defend the land and its natural resources."

In April 2010 plans for more evictions in the area were denounced by the Zapatista autonomous authorities (JBG): “For us the land belongs to those who work it, therefore we make clear that...we will not allow one more eviction, we will not tolerate these actions, we will not allow them to take place; we will defend our land whatever happens, because for us the land is not for hire, not for rent, let alone an object for sale....We love the Mother Earth; we work it, care for it, and protect it. For this reason we are ready to defend it at all costs."

The Zapatistas have never identified themselves as an environmental movement. Their struggle has been, and remains, one for land and dignity, for the right to live collectively, in their own way, and for democracy, liberty and justice. But it naturally all comes together. The indigenous peoples of the earth once again have to become its defenders.

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