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Via Campesina Stand on Agri-Fuels

by MST National Secretariat
São Paulo, Brazil

1. The objectives of transnational corporations and president Bush
2. Where peasant movements around the world stand

Tuesday, March 6th 2007

(Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra - Landless Rural Workers' Movement) was in Mali, Africa (at the Nyéléni 2007, Via Campesina World Forum For Food Sovereignty) as part of a delegation of 12 representatives from Brazilian social movements and environmental organizations, working with more than 600 leaders from all continents, scientists, environmentalists, militants from the women’s movement and from several organizations and groups to discuss the problems involved to defend of food sovereignty in every country.

The debate about the need for social movements all over the world to prioritize the struggle in defense of food production and food sovereignty for the people was discussed in depth. It also involves a broader struggle against the offensive of capital in the countryside, mainly to control agrifuels.

There has been an alliance unifying the interests of the three main sectors of international capital: a) oil companies; b) transnational corporations in charge of agricultural trade and GMO seeds and the c) car companies. Their sole objective is to maintain the current consumption levels of the North and the high profit rates of their transnational corporations.

1. The objectives of transnational corporations and president Bush:

To convince Southern governments to use their territories for the production of energy from agricultural products with the objective of maintaining the current consumption levels of the “American Way of Life” of the North. Green energy contained inside of crops, as oil, or inside of trees, is in fact an agro-chemical metamorphosis of the energy of the sun, which is later transformed into fuel as vegetable oil or methanol.

That is why they need the countries of the South, where there are higher solar energy levels throughout the year and where there is still agricultural land available for the production of oil crops such as sunflower, corn, peanuts, beans, African Palm or Afro-Brazilian Palm, or for the production of methanol from sugar-cane, corn or trees.

On the other hand, they wish to impose a monoculture form of production, in the case of soy and corn, combined with GMO seeds, which would guarantee the seed, pesticide market and the would still allow them to charge Royalties for its transnational companies.

Profit is what matters for them and they are not interested in the environment, global warming and the life of rural workers. They have opted for the production of renewable energy, in order to eliminate their dependence on oil from countries with nationalist governments, such as Venezuela and Iran.

Besides, there is now an enormous political instability in Nigeria, Angola and Saudi Arabia which are also suppliers of the U.S. and Europe. Not to mention the fiasco of the Iraqi invasion, another supplier of this fuel.

2. Where peasant movements around the world stand:

We cannot call this programme bio-fuel or bio-diesel. The expression “bio” relates to energy, to life, and in general terms it is a clear manipulation of a concept that does not exist. We must adopt in all languages the concept of agri-fuel. In other words, energy generated from agricultural production. But the prefix “agri” is still quite generic and our scientists are now studying a more precise concept.

We agree that the use of term agri-fuel is more adequate for the environment than oil. However, it does not affect the core of the problem for humanity, which is the current energetic and transport framework, based on the use of individual vehicles. We defend the radical replacement from a consumerist and polluting individual means of transport to public transportation, such as trains, subways, bicycles, etc.

We do not accept the plan to use agricultural products which are now used to feed humans, such as corn, soy, sunflower, etc. to be transformed into energy for cars.

Even in cases where the production of agri-fuel is necessary, it must be sustainably produced. In other words, we oppose the current neo-liberal production model which requires large estates and crop monoculture. Large-scale monoculture is harmful for the environment and displaces labour from the countryside.

Monoculture affects global warming, since it destroys bio-diversity and stops the humidity balance between rainwater and agricultural production. Besides it uses pesticides and machinery intensively.

We can produce energy and fuel sustainably from agricultural products, in small and medium scale, which will not unbalance the environment, and which will represent a greater autonomy for peasants in the control and supply of energy for the cities.

We strongly disapprove of the Bush administration initiative to visit Brazil, Colombia and Guatemala to co-opt and seduce those countries in order to increase their ethanol production for export to the US.

In exchange, capitalists from the large three sectors of capital in the U.S. demand the right to buy and/or install dozens of new ethanol mills throughout the continent. Only in Brazil they intend to build 100 new mills.

To make this plan possible, the Bush administration proposes to create a new international commodity, an ethanol “energetic commodity”, which would not be considered agricultural and would escape the current WTO / World Trade organization’s norms.

The white house also proposes for Brazil, India and South Africa, among others, to negotiate a new common technological standard for ethanol, be it from corn, sugar cane and trees. Therefore, there would be a common formula internationally accepted, which would establish a new OPEC for agricultural energy to control global trade.

The possible success of this U.S. plan would be a tragedy for tropical agriculture, it would transform large extensions of our best lands in huge monoculture plantations, it would further eliminate biodiversity and the production of food, only to fuel its cars. It would displace millions of rural workers all over the world, who would pile up in the slums of large cities.

The debate and the struggle are only starting. We hope that social organizations will react and that the media will inform about these issues, which are essential for the future of our people.

Therefore, during the activities on March 8th, women workers in the countryside and in the city in Brazil called for the “Struggle for Food Sovereignty and against the Agribusiness” against transnational corporations operating in the countryside and in defense of rural workers and bio-diversity. We included in the agenda the fact that the biggest representative of imperialism, Mr. Bush, landed in Brazilian territory, fomenting even further the struggle against neo-liberalism.

Published in In Motion Magazine April 1, 2007

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