Category Archives: Bioenergy / Agrofuels

Land taken over by foreign investors could feed 550m people, study finds

By Damian Carrington, June 27, 2014. Source: The Guardian 

A worker at Saudi Star Rice Farm in Gambella, Ethiopia. Rights groups accuse the government of forcing people off their land to make way for foreign investors. Photograph by  Jenny Vaughan/AFP/Getty Images

A worker at Saudi Star Rice Farm in Gambella, Ethiopia. Rights groups accuse the government of forcing people off their land to make way for foreign investors. Photograph by Jenny Vaughan/AFP/Getty Images

 

The land grabbed in some of the world’s hungriest countries by foreign goverments and corporations could feed up to 550m people, according to new research. The crops grown on grabbed land are frequently exported, or used to produce biofuel, but the new work shows it could end malnourishment in those countries if used to feed local people.

Since 2000, at least 31m hectares (77m acres) of land has been acquired by overseas investors seeking to secure food supplies or increase production, a process dubbed land grabbing. Almost half has been in Africa, particularly Sudan. But Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have been targets too. Proponents argue the foreign investment can increase yields and provide development and employment, but critics say the grabs often occur without the consent of those on the land and lead to food being exported. Continue reading

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Take Action: Help stop logging of critical forest in MA (video)

The Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation & Recreation is reopening the critical Quabbin forest ecosystem and other public lands in Massachusetts to commercial logging. Trees are our climate saviors, we need to preserve the forests.

Watch the video for more details, then call the Massachusetts Governor to protest at 888-870-7770 or 617-725-4005

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Videos

Synthetic biology products found in “green” laundry detergent

Note: You can check out this letter from our friends with ETC Group asking Ecover to reconsider their use of synbio and genetic engineering in their “green” products.

-The GJEP Team

By Stephanie Strom, May 30, 2014. Source: NY Times

Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

Consumer products containing ingredients made using an advanced form of engineering known as synthetic biology are beginning to show up more often on grocery and department store shelves.

A liquid laundry detergent made by Ecover, a Belgian company that makes “green” household products including the Method line, contains an oil produced by algae whose genetic code was altered using synthetic biology. The algae’s DNA sequence was changed in a lab, according to Tom Domen, the company’s manager for long-term innovation.

Ecover calls the algae-produced oil a “natural” replacement for palm kernel oil, which is in such high demand that environmentalists are concerned that tropical rain forests are being felled to grow palm trees, disturbing ecosystems and threatening endangered animals.

“Finding a sustainable source of palm oil is, of course, difficult,” Mr. Domen said. “This new oil is a more sustainable alternative from a new technology.”

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Genetically engineered tree industry halted in Oregon, New Zealand

Note: This decision in New Zealand, pulling the reigns on commercial release of genetically engineered (GE) trees, comes on the heels of a major victory against GE crops in Oregon’s Rogue Valley.  Global Justice Ecology Project has learned from county commissioners in Oregon that the recently approved ban does, in fact, cover GE trees (although specific enforcement regulations are yet to be written).

However small, these victories are important in stopping an industry hellbent on turning forests into factories of “designer” trees to fuel the industrial machine.

-The GJEP Team

May 22, 2014. Source: Voxy

Photo: New Zealand Forest Managers

Photo: New Zealand Forest Managers

The High Court decision to uphold the Sustainability Council’s appeal on genetic engineering (GE) is a win for New Zealand’s primary sector, the Green Party said today.

The High Court has upheld the Sustainability Council’s appeal against the Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision, which allowed organism’s resulting from new novel GE techniques to be signed off without public consultation. Scion (Forest Research Institute) had asked for a determination which may have allowed them to grow GE trees without public notification or process. This would have also allowed food crops using the same GE techniques to be commercialised without any requirement for public consultation.

“The Court has ruled that the EPA didn’t have the ability to allow these GE organisms to be signed off via a loop hole,” said Green Party GE spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“The original decision would have allowed a free for all using this new GE techniques before the European Union (EU) has even set rules about them. Continue reading

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Scientists create bionic particles ‘inspired by Terminator’

Note: As if biofuels from genetically engineered trees and other crops weren’t bad enough…

-The GJEP Team

May 23, 2014. Source: The Guardian

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – a vision surely now only decades away. Photo: Observer

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – a vision surely now only decades away. Photo: Observer

In what might come to be seen as a moment of apocalyptic hubris, scientists at universities in Michigan and Pittsburgh in the US have pioneered bionic particles – a blend of organic matter with semiconductors – that they describe as being “inspired by fictional cyborgs like Terminator”.

The particles, currently microscopic but perhaps with the potential to scale up to nightmarish Austrian-accented machines, are a blend of cadmium telluride, which is used in solar panels to absorb sunlight, and cytochrome C, a plant protein that helps transports electrons during photosynthesis. Blended together, the new particles “recreate the heart of the process that allows plants to turn sunlight into fuel”.

The hope is that the particles will aid a more efficient conversion of sunlight into biofuels, rather than setting off a chain of events that leads to Skynet being switched on. “We merged biological and inorganic in a way that leverages the attributes of both to get something better than either alone,” said Sharon Glotzer, who headed up the research, alluding to the lethal blend of malleability and strength inherent to the T-1000 model of Terminator.

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Green groups issue warning over EU biomass plans

May 21, 2014. Source: Business Green
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Europe’s demand for biomass power is likely to exceed the amount of wood and land available to grow energy crops within its borders, researchers have warned.
study by the International Institute for Sustainability Analysis and Strategy (IINAS), the European Forest Institute, and Joanneum Research this week predicted planned demand for timber will probably surpass the amount that can be sustainably extracted from European forests unless the continent’s waste wood from industry and agriculture is fully utilised. It added that specific new incentives would be required to ensure waste materials are diverted for bio-energy use.
Meanwhile, a separate paper from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) also concluded the amount of land available for energy crops without displacing valuable habitats is only around 1.3 million hectares, while the European Commission foresees demand for energy crops that would require an area five times larger in 2030. It added that the amount of land that could be safely dedicated to provide biofuels for the transport sector alone would only meet one per cent of projected needs.
Biomass and biofuels are seen as a low emissions alternative to fossil fuels, but controversy remains over whether wood and other materials is sourced sustainably and how emissions reductions from the technology are calculated. Some studies show that certain biofuels may actually have a larger carbon footprint than the traditional fuels they are designed to replace once emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC), such as clearing forests for energy crop production are taken into account.

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BREAKING: Protesters disrupt genetically engineered trees corporate event

May 14, 2014. Source: Global Justice Ecology Project

Industry Warned: “Plant genetically engineered trees and expect resistance”

Tallahassee, FL (US) - Demonstrators today interrupted an event hosted by genetically engineered (GE) tree company ArborGen, warning participants to expect growing protests should they plant GE trees. The event brought together landowners and foresters from the industrial tree plantation industry and featured top ArborGen scientists working on GE trees.

“We sent a clear message to participants — plant genetically engineered trees and expect resistance,” said Keith Brunner, an organizer with Global Justice Ecology Project. “Invasive GE eucalyptus, planned for deployment across the US South, would irrevocably devastate native ecosystems, exacerbate droughts and lead to catastrophic firestorms. This must be stopped before it is too late.”

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected soon to accept public comments following the release of its draft Environmental Impact Statement on ArborGen’s request to commercially sell millions of potentially flammable and invasive genetically engineered eucalyptus trees, for planting across the US South from South Carolina to Texas. The USDA will ultimately issue a final decision approving or denying ArborGen’s request.

GJEP member Keith Brunner and Stephanie Hall, Toad Clan, Seminolee Miccosukee, interrupt an ArborGen event. Photo: Will Bennington/GJEP

Stephanie Hall, a member of the Toad clan of the Seminolee Miccosukee People, interrupts the ArborGen event. Photo: Will Bennington/GJEP

If approved, ArborGen’s freeze-tolerant GE eucalyptus, designed to be planted in industrial tree plantations for bioenergy and pulp production, would be the first commercially approved GE forest tree in the US. Approval of GE eucalyptus could open the door to approval for other GE species like GE pine and poplar, which pose additional risks due to the likelihood of contamination of wild relatives in native forests.

Stephanie Hall, a member of the Toad Clan of the Seminolee Miccosukee People, also pointed out the link between ArborGen’s plans and the history of genocide against Indigenous Peoples in the region: “ArborGen could not be planning for the development of vast industrial plantations of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees on land in Florida without the previous history of genocide and forced removal of Indigenous men, women, children, plants and animals from the region. People should not be complicit in this — we must ban genetically engineered trees.”

“Early last year, the USDA received nearly 40,000 comments opposing ArborGen’s GE eucalyptus, with only a handful received in favor,” stated Anne Petermann,Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project.  “Then in May of 2013, the international Tree Biotechnology conference in Asheville, NC was protested and disrupted for almost a week by hundreds of protesters. These protests and today’s disruption are only the beginning. As the USDA considers ArborGen’s request to legalize GE trees, opposition to these trees and the threats they pose to communities and native forests continues to grow.”

 

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Indigenous Peoples

When our land is free, we’re all free

By Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor and Jacinta Fay, May 7, 2014. Source: Sustainable Development Institute/Friends of the Earth

On 6-8 May 2014 agribusiness corporations are courting African governments at the Grow Africa Investment Forum in Abuja, Nigeria to ‘further accelerate sustainable agricultural growth in Africa’.
Corporations’ interest in agriculture in Africa has certainly accelerated corporate control of land and seeds but done little to support agriculture that will feed the continent. Rather than support family farming and smallholder agriculture private sector investment in agriculture has resulted in grabbing land from communities; the land which they farm sustainably and rely on for their survival.

Communities are resisting this corporate takeover of their land and they are winning. All over Africa people are sending a clear message to their governments; stop selling Africa to corporations. The Jogbahn Clan in Liberia is one such community and here is their story.

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US biodiesel imports increase eightfold in 2013

May 6, 2014. Source: The Daily Fusion

Monthly U.S. biodiesel and renewable diesel imports, 2012-2013. (Source:  U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Monthly U.S. biodiesel and renewable diesel imports, 2012-2013. (Source:
U.S. Energy Information Administration)

The United States imports two varieties of biomass-based diesel fuel—biodiesel and renewable diesel. Last year, total U.S. imports of these two varieties of biomass-based diesel fuel reached 525 million gallons, compared to 61 million gallons in 2012.

Two principal factors drove the increase in U.S. biodiesel imports: growth in domestic biodiesel demand to satisfy renewable fuels targets, and increased access to biodiesel from other countries. As a result, the United States switched from being a net exporter of biomass-based diesel in 2012 to a net importer in 2013 by a wide margin.

Growth in U.S. biomass-based diesel demand. The strongest driver of the resurgence in U.S. biomass-based diesel demand was the increasing Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) target. Both biodiesel and renewable diesel qualify for the biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuel targets, as well as the overall RFS target. The total RFS target increased from 15.20 billion gallons in 2012 to 16.55 billion gallons in 2013. The biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels targets increased from 1.00 billion gallons to 1.28 billion gallons, and from 2.00 billion gallons to 2.75 billion gallons, respectively. Biomass-based diesel fuels have higher energy content compared with ethanol, and thus generate more Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits per gallon of fuel produced. In addition, renewable diesel meets the same American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards as petroleum diesel, and is thus not subject to the blending limits imposed on biodiesel. Continue reading

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Anti-biomass and coal campaigners call for UK’s most polluting power station to close

April 23, 2014. Source: Biofuelwatch

Photo: Biofuelwatch

Photo: Biofuelwatch

Campaigners have disrupted Drax Plc’s AGM in London today, calling for the power station to be closed down because of the environmental and social impacts of the biomass and coal that it is burning. Three campaigners were removed from the meeting after unfurling a banner reading “No to biomass and coal – shut down Drax” and accusing company directors of misleading the public over claims that their biomass conversion is low-carbon, renewable energy. The protest happened against a backdrop of falling company share prices as the UK Government announced that it would not be awarding a lucrative new subsidy scheme, a Contract for Difference, to Drax’s second converted unit, sparking investment uncertainty.

Biofuelwatch campaigner Duncan Law was one of the campaigners removed from the AGM today. He said:

“Drax is calling itself the world’s biggest renewable energy power station, but looking past the shiny green façade you see it’s actually still a giant incinerator, only now fed on ancient wetland forests as well as opencast coal. And what’s more, it will be pumping out more CO2 than ever despite company claims that it’s doing the opposite.

It is clear that Drax and the UK government aren’t listening to evidence that big biomass power stations in the UK are fuelling forest destruction in the southern US and increasing carbon emissions. We feel we have no choice but to take this further action to highlight how, in the name of renewable energy, energy companies and their allies in government are causing yet another environmental disaster.”

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Coal, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests