World Rainforest Movement

In Defence of Food Severeignty and Biodiversity – We oppose a second “conquest of the desert” through biofuels

Fiske Menuco (General Roca), (see footnote)*

The organisations and individuals who attended the First Patagonian Conference on Biofuels are aware of the true social, economic and ecological consequences suffered throughout the country by victims of the expansion of soya cultivation. The Provincial Governments of Chubut, Rio Negro and Neuquen are now announcing their intention to promote agribusiness and biofuel production and make large areas of land, with potential for irrigation and convenient soil and climatic conditions, available for growing crops such as soya, rape and trees.

We, the signatories:

Reject this second “conquest of the desert” and perceive it as an attempt to further expand the boundaries of monocultures. The current expansion does not intend to increase the territory for sheep farming, as it did at the end of the 19th century for the benefit of the pampas oligarchy and
the predominantly British commercial interests of the time. The present attempt favours Patagonian invasion by means of monocultures destined for the production of agrofuels. The Government of Buenos Aires in 1879 defined “desert” as any territory that could be occupied, shared out and used without the need for any consents or permissions. Today, both the Government and other interested parties talk elegantly about “growth”, “investment”, “technology”, “sustainable development”, and “potential”, but in reality their plans are just another repetition of the past ruthless plundering ? only this time with even greater risk of contamination, increased levels of human exploitation and large-scale social and environmental consequences.

Not only do we reject the above methods for obtaining energy, but predominantly, we reject the assumptions on the demand for, and use of energy as publicised by main-stream media, corporate literature, university programmes dependent on private interests, and government projects. All the above have been heavily influenced by large industrial groups and stock-market speculators. No matter how large a corporation, their bulimic demands are neither justifiable or a representation of the needs of “humanity”. Their views should be seen as part of a race for accumulation, competition and conflict (including wars), and their methods imply an increase -rather than a reduction- of large-scale squandering. In order to achieve their targets and maintain consensus they promise to maintain levels of consumption and privileges in some regions whilst in the remainder of the world they sow the seeds of poverty interspersed with sweet talk and unverifiable statistics.

We reject the development of biofuels, and view this as a mega-industry which will primarily benefit the large agro-exporting companies, seed patent companies, pesticide producers and a small number of middlemen and promoters. This will occur at the expense of small and medium-sized producers, biological diversity, and the socially based production, distribution and consumption of abundant as well as healthy food for local communities.

Even more so, we reject any decisions taken relating to this issue, as well as any future actions taken by governments without consulting communities, small and medium-sized business organisations, and social and ecological organisations.

We reject the turning over of vast expanses of territory to monocultures (whether GM crops or not), and by so doing, excluding any other type of land use, such as the growing of food crops. This has a detrimental effect on diversity and food sovereignty.

For these reasons, and to give an example, we reject the provision of pre-elaborated meals in schools and other places as they contain soya or soya derivatives, as rather than providing adequate nutrition, they contribute to child malnutrition. Instead, we propose that the large sums of money spent on providing industrialized ready meals should be used for buying local produce and/or to subsidise the small and medium-sized producers.

We reject any type of production which leaves rural producers in debt, displaces rural populations and allows the concentration of land ownership in the hands of a few, whether these are individuals, national or foreign companies.

We reject the inconsistent arguments put forward as justification for the biofuels business which advertises, for example, that it helps to create employment, allows diversification of crops, feed livestock, contribute to mitigate global warming, help to resolve the so-called energy crisis, etc.

We reject the funding and intervention of any transnational company (such as Monsanto, Repsol, Cargill, Telefónica, Aquiline, etc) in public institutions such as schools, educational programmes, research centres, and state organisations in general. This also includes any other methods used to influence political decision making, including the use of business-oriented foundations and NGOs to promote so-called “social corporate responsibility” and other public relations programmes in order to legitimise the appropriation of common goods and discourage social control of the economy.

We reject the public consultations on “sustainable” production of biofuels organised by EU countries and by the European Commission. These have included consultations relating to our territory and have taken our support for granted without consulting with us. We are opposed to being the ones that feed the transport needs of rich countries at the expense of our soils.

We have joined the increasing number of organisations and individuals who are calling for a global moratorium on biofuels. Our aim is to halt the devastating expansion of bio-energy crops. We hope that EU Governments will be willing to listen to other voices, rather than just to those of the industries who have an interest in biofuels, and the NGOs (from the North and the South) who are financed by these companies.

During the moratorium, we demand that communities which will supposedly be “benefitted” from large scale consumption of biofuels are made aware of the social, economic, cultural and environmental consequences which are already apparent due to the production of these so-called “energy” commodities, and that this is not done via intermediaries.

We are aware of the devastating impact that the expansion of these mono-crops has had on the food industry. In order to push forward with their plans, the industry would need to conduct a huge and world-wide cover-up to prevent this information becoming public knowledge.

We are asking for socially-based systems of distribution and control for agriculture, for seeds and for water in order to maintain a system of local, regional and national production.

Coalition of Popular Assemblies of the provinces of Chubut, Río Negro and Neuquen, Patagonia,
Public Workers Union (ATE),
Argentine Central Workers Association (CTA),
Provincial Teachers Federation (UNTER),
University Teachers Union (ADUNC),
Andean Regional Neighbour’s Assembly Against Plunder,
Pastoral Social Alto Valle (Catholic Church),
Fvske Menuco Association (indigenous communities),
Rural Women’s Movement (Mujeres en Lucha),
Theomai Network (academic),
Grupo de Reflexión Rural Argentina,
Citizen’s Assembly against Plunder and Contamination,
National Network of Ecologist Action (RENACE, over 70 environmental organizations of Argentina),
Regional Human Rights Observatory,
more signatures of supporters follow

* The 25 of May commemorates the birth of Argentina in 1810. For the Patagonians, on the same day but 69 years later, it symbolises the beginnings of the genocide suffered by the ancestral communities which inhabited, and continue to inhabit, this territory. It symbolises the appropriation of this land by a handful of landowners, the plunder of the environment and the devastation of a traditional way of life. It was on the 25th of May 1879 when General Roca crossed the Rio Negro for the first time to conquer the territory south of the river. We do not accept any project that threatens to repeat that same story of domination, this time with our diverse society, on an economic, social or cultural level.