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Biofuels: "The global market: entity without people"

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By Luis E. Sabini Fernández

It is from "the market" that the necro-fuel boom is promoted, regardless of whether this requires a greater chemicalization of crops and soils, or if the control of the entire food circulation is further strengthened in the hands of the powerful, depriving food autonomy small farmers.

Biofuels, agrofuels, necro-fuels


The bio-, better called by some necro-fuels, trying to pay with the same coin for the semantic move of the big laboratories, are the last cry in investments.

Those who have patented that name are using the same tactic that genetic engineering laboratories have carried out, renaming themselves, after a first moment of semantic unconsciousness, biotechnology and using the slogan "life sciences". The qualifier bio-technology confuses in a single movement the biotechnologies used by man since time immemorial, to make cheeses, breads, wines, with the recent technological discoveries to make transgenics. A huge qualitative leap that is abusive to designate in the same way.

Likewise, "life sciences" is another propaganda resource that says nothing strictly speaking, because much science is connected with "life" and more precisely, it would have to be called "manipulated life sciences" or transgenic or genetically modified. But that's precisely what they want to avoid, right?

Exactly the same thing happens with necro-fuels: machine consumption –automotors– is baptized with a prefix that means “life”, precisely at the cost of life.

Strictly speaking, the prefix "bio" applied to politics would have to make us modify this semantic load. But there seems to be a certain delay for social "truths" to reach the redoubts of the "hard sciences."

Anyway, with necro-fuels the proposed force fields are clear.

In his favor, Bush avant-garde his expansion, Lula agreeing a preferential site for Brazil –the dean country in such fuels– in the face of those needs in expansion of the US, and in the local market, the engineer Huergo, who has come to affirm, In a kind of stupidity mixed with mental myopia, that global warming is welcome because it increases the area sown with transgenic soybeans, and finally, more in general, the market, that is, investors eager for always new businesses.

Against it are ecologists, researchers and agronomists who warn that the expansion of crops for fuels will inevitably detract from food crops, making the basket of the poor more expensive (there is already a shortage of corn, no less, in Mexico, its cradle), that the demand for this type of fuel is so high that it will unbalance the entire supply of crops, something that consequently will greatly alter the cost and access of grains for human consumption.

President Bush wants, for example, about 70 million hectares to plant a pasture that, according to reports that have been presented to him, would be the one with the highest yield per unit of energy, [1] only you have to get 70 million hectares. , and that to obtain only 5% of the current consumption of fuel in the USA, which is the first stage that Bush has proclaimed.

In general, the yield for bioethanol and biodiesel is very low compared to the energy inputs required to obtain it, [1] therefore, even without considering how such production will inevitably affect the food market for humans, from now on it is a lousy environmental business (albeit brilliant for speculators and opportunists who will continue to outsource costs). George Monbiot, for example, [2] has calculated that the polluting emission produced in obtaining fuel from oil palm exceeds the CO2 emission of oil itself.

Among the enthusiastic supporters of necro fuels and refractories, there are some specimens like Al Gore or the FAO that are, they say, in the middle. A peculiar medium: Gore silences his conscience by warning of the damage presented by the prospect of an overwhelming expansion of crops to provide energy to automobiles that goes to the detriment of food for humans, but he does not want to lose the business, and in his presentations he warns commercial enthusiasm. In the case of FAO, the organization dedicated to agriculture and food (in English: Food and Agriculture Organization) of the UN, in view of the positions at times opposite, expressed in their official documents, we must consequently draw that its orientation is not homogeneous; At one point, as happened with most of the UN commissions and organizations, the FAO, with its director Jacques Diouf, bowed to the genetic engineering laboratories and together with the UNDP, the WHO and the WFP extorted money from refractory countries to GMOs; [3] however, given the rise of necro-fuels, FAO has criticized that this development is to the detriment - which it considers inevitable - of food crops. Better late…

There is, however, a decisive element that differentiates supporters and refractory: the human being. Let's see how "the market" deals with this issue.

"The market" is constituted by investors or those interested in investing. They are all gentlemen and ladies, very human, them. They greet each other, they smile. They seem, properly, human. However, one retains a suspicion.


Let's review an investor meeting. Like so many. In the case that this chronicler records, the presenter of the topic is Julio Rodríguez, apparently a key figure in the BGS Group, an entity "dedicated to detecting investment opportunities" as its brochures say, while his name reveals his cultural inclination. On August 22, he closed his speech (at the Rojas Foundation), pondering the existence of "many factors to enhance, that it is not a matter of fooling around". Be prudent, pontificate all the time ... take the various factors into account: "the cost of the raw material", "the cost of the process", "the market price", "the yield per hectare", "also the scale has your prudence ”,“ […] in principle, it is a very good opportunity, the markets are showing it and most of the countries […] the conclusions for Argentina, gentlemen, as I said a while ago, hallelujah, I hope this lasts and we know how to take advantage […]. "

If we review the factors that these wise investment tips go over, we will not see human beings anywhere. Except, of course, those interested in investing who must be considered very human and excellent beings. But the people, the common people, those who work and often live in the places that are going to be wiped out by industrial monocultures, do not appear anywhere.

Neither do the social sectors appear for whom a minimal increase in the prices of basic foods is a catastrophe.

With which we can establish a true and clear difference between those who are looking for better benefits and are in favor of necro-fuels as "the investment of the hour" and those who analyze the emergence of such fuels due to their impact on the destiny of beings humans, in their work and daily maintenance.

There is much debate about whether ecology, critical thinking, the political left, constitute forms of humanism; I personally consider that some of these conceptions suffer from serious deficiencies, which have caused harm to human beings in the flesh, but what is clear is that the market is a clear and categorical anti-humanism.

And that it is from "the market" that the necro-fuel boom is promoted. If this requires more chemicalization of crops and soils, it does not matter. If this operation strengthens, even more, control of the entire food circulation in the hands of the powerful, depriving small farmers of food autonomy a little more, it does not matter (rather, progress will have been made in a plan that must be called campesinicide). If the boom in necro-fuels, blessed by the market, “forces” the metropolitan countries to “use” the periphery, as is already outlined with the Bush-Lula agreement, it doesn't matter either. It's not new.

* Luis E. Sabini Fernández
Professor of Ecology and Human Rights of the Free Human Rights Chair of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Buenos Aires.
Futuros magazine editor

Notes:

[1] That grass would grant an energy availability of 1 to 4; in other words, for each unit of energy that must be applied to produce it, 4 units are obtained in the form of fuel. Other vegetables have a not so convenient ratio, 1 to 3, 1 to 2; with corn 1 to 1.5 and it can even be negative. As with the oil palm, for example.

[2] "Worse than fossil fuels", futures, no 10, Río de la Plata, fall 2007.

[3] See open letter to FAO from Lim Li Lin and Chee Yoke Heong in Futures, No 7, 2004/2005.


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