Dr. Holt-Gimenez debunks commonly accepted myths propagated by agro-fuel supporters in attempting to address the growing concern over the agro-fuels boom. Arguing against the perception that agro-fuels are environmentally beneficial, the report notes that when the full life cycle of agro-fuels is considered, the moderate emission savings are undone by far greater emissions from deforestation, burning, peat, drainage and soil carbon losses. Similarly, the increased demand for agro-fuels is likely to cause widespread deforestation in the Global South, particularly in Brazil and Indonesia.
Moreover, due to ever increasing consolidation of oil companies, genetic engineering companies and agri-business, the agro-fuels boom is unlikely to benefit farmers. Instead, small holders are likely to be forced off their land. When it comes to food security, agro-fuels are also likely to wreak disaster. The report notes that “the world’s poorest spend 50-80% of their total household income on food. They suffer when high fuel prices push up food prices. Now, when food and fuel crops are competing for land and resources, high food prices may actually push up fuel prices.” The report also addresses the concerns surrounding second generation agro-fuels. Touted by agro-fuel supporters as environmentally friendly crops such as grasses and fast growing trees, these crops may not prove the silver bullet to agro-fuel’s environmental dilemma. The report notes that cellulosic ethanol is unlikely to replace agro-fuel within five to eight years – in time to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
The current agro-fuels honeymoon will only serve to line the pockets of large agro-industrial corporations. Encouragingly, the report asserts that the agro-fuels transition is not evitable. There are many successful, locally-focused, energy efficient and people centered alternatives that do not threaten the existing food system, the environment or hurt farmer interests. As an alternative, Dr. Holt-Gimenez argues that “putting people and environment–instead of corporate mega-profits–at the center of rural development requires food sovereignty: the right of people to determine their own food systems.”
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