Civil society groups slam industry's megalomanic agrofuel plans
Thursday 31st January 2008
An industry-led advisory group backed by EU Research Commissioner Potocnik proposes a 25% target of agrofuels for road transport in the midst of growing critique of the negative impacts of large-scale agrofuels.
Civil society groups demonstrated this morning in front of a gathering of the European Biofuels Technology Platform (EBFTP) in Brussels, protesting against the plans of this industry-led EU advisory group for a dramatic boost of Europe's target for agrofuels use in transport to 25% (by 2030). The EBFTP's demand comes at a time when the European Commission's current proposal for a 10% target is facing intensive criticism due to the severe social and environmental effects of expanding production of agrofuels crops, especially in developing countries.
The EBFTP, dominated by oil, car and biotech companies, met today to launch the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) and Strategy Deployment Document (SDD), which outline a detailed road map for allocating EU research & development funds in order to reach the 25 % target.
"It is ludicrous that Research Commissioner Potocnik last week backed the EBFTP, an industry platform promoting a 25% agrofuel target which would cause a further large scale environmental and social disaster in countries like Brazil and Indonesia, where farmers communities and plantation workers are already facing displacement and deteriorating working conditions due to the recent agrofuel boom", says Jonas Vanreusel from FIAN, an international organisation for the right to food. Negative impacts would not be limited to producer countries in the South, "Europe, which imports agricultural products and food, has not got enough agricultural land to produce agrofuels, except for local use on the farm, and should give priority to food production", says Gerard Choplin, from the European Farmers Coordination (CPE).
"Decisions about EU's research funding should not be left in the hand of corporations with a direct commercial interest in boosting agrofuels production. We don't want funding for genetically modified agrofuel crops like GM trees, for example", says Nina Holland of Corporate Europe Observatory, an Amsterdam-based research and campaign group. The EBFTP was established in June 2006 at the initiative of the Commission's DG Research and continues to have the undiluted backing of Commissioner Potocnik, despite growing criticism. Earlier this month, a coalition of civil society groups wrote to Commissioner Potocnik, urging him not to follow the EBFTP's advice but instead fund research to determine the impact of agrofuels on greenhouse gas emissions.
The Commission's current 10% target (by 2020) has recently been heavily criticised by a range of prominent voices including the UN's special rapporteur on right to food Jean Ziegler, the UK parliament's environmental audit committee (EAC), the Commission's Joint Research Centre, as well as EU Environment and Development Commissioners, Stavros Dimas and Louis Michel. Calls for a moratorium on all targets and incentives for expanding agrofuels use are on the rise. "Ironically, the EBFTP conference is held to coincide with the EU Sustainable Energy Week, but agrofuels are not a sustainable cure to our oil addiction, and even less to climate change" says Nina Holland.
Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) Tel: 0031 6 30285042; email: nina[at]corporateeurope.org
Gerard Choplin, European Farmers Coordination (CPE), Brussels Tel: 022173112 - 0473257378
INTERVIEW AND PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Thursday 31st January, Diamant Conference Centre, Bd. A. Reyerslaan 80, B-1030 Brussels (next to Metro Diamant), from 08.00-09.30am. Protesters with banners, music and popcorn pump station.
DOWNLOAD PHOTOS: After the action, photos will be available at: www.aseed.net/agrofuel-brussels
NOTES FOR EDITORS
 The demonstration was organised jointly by Coordination Paysanne Europeenne (CPE), Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), Inter-Environnement Wallonie, A SEED and FIAN.
 Despite EBFTP's claims to be multistakeholder fora, the group is dominated by corporations and research centres with close ties to industry. Only 2 out of some 125 members of the 5 working groups are NGO representatives. More information about the EBFTP and its composition can be found in the briefing report The EU's agrofuel folly: policy capture by corporate interests, Corporate Europe Observatory (June 2007): http://www.corporateeurope.org/agrofuelfolly.html
 The civil society letter to Commissioner Potocnik can be found at: http://www.corporateeurope.org/docs/letter_sra_biofuels.pdf