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by Sara Crespo Suárez
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia

A great environmental and social disaster

Recently there has been a worldwide boom in agro-fuels. This phenomenon comes with many implications and great risks, primarily for countries in the South. Agro-fuels are being promoted as the salvation of the planet, but deep down have to do with: 1) the necessity for transnational corporations to increase their profits; and 2) the Northern countries’ desire to maintain a lifestyle of extreme consumerism that is not sustainable for the planet.

The great transnational petroleum industry is pushing agro-fuels because they are an alternative with which to supply their markets and also to grow their profits especially given the fact that the primary resource is “renewable” . Thus, they don’t run the risk of depletion that they face with hydrocarbons.

On the other hand, the large corporations that make up agri-business are also interested in seeing this process thrive, since they will obviously benefit from it. That is, the transnational seed companies, as well as those involved with GMOs and toxic agro- chemicals.

Agro-fuels are being presented as an alternative that will help maintain the consumer lifestyle of the countries of the North, and at the same time are environmentally friendly in regards to global warming and climate change. Nevertheless, this initiative brings with it catastrophic impacts for everyone. It immediately expands the farmland border with subsequent deforestation and increased desertification of soils in the Southern hemisphere -- thus leaving fewer trees. It is quite clear that if there are fewer trees, there will not be a decrease in global warming, but, on the contrary, it will become increasingly worse.

We can deduce from this that agro-fuels will cause great environmental and social impacts. In regards to just the environmental impacts, we have monoculture which constitutes a threat to biodiversity, running the horrifying risk of losing that biodiversity. What will happen to the crop variety that we have now? What will we eat? Where will we grow crops when our countries are nothing more than giant deserts? How will we recover our water and soils when they are contaminated by agro-chemicals?

It is mandatory that governments and farmer and peasant social organizations seek food sovereignty alternatives to confront agribusiness. Alternatives that do not put our natural resources at risk, which do not bring about the loss of our biodiversity and the elimination of our traditional foods. The countries of the South must first think about how to feed our population and then see what can be done about cars. Or are these machines more important than human life?

Sara Crespo Suárez writes for PROBIOMA. Translated by Nic Paget-Clarke and irlandesa.

Published in In Motion Magazine January 12, 2008.

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