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Anti Biodiesel Activism in Argentina

by david moders
This weekend activists carried out a series of actions in opposition to the International Biofuels Congress in Buenos Aires, in which Al Gore was the keynote speaker. Comunity resistance against the imposition of Agrofuels transnational industry on Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil is growin.

Note: This is a hodge-podge account of anti-Agrofuels actions this past weekend in Buenos Aires. Note the language: The so-called "biofuels" are more appropriately called "agrofuels," being that they derive from agricultural raw materials, once farmed for human consumption. This is why instead of "biofuels" we are now using the word "agrofuels."


Action of Resistance in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Against the First Inter-American Biofuels Congress

Thursday May 10, 2007: Discussion and Work Action
In the Bauen Hotel, a worker-operated collective in Buenos Aires. Videos, discussion and presentations about the implications of Agrofuels in Argentina and Latin America. Construction of a conceptual and territorial map, showing the agroindustries, the ecological and social impacts and resistance. Generation of a statement for the demonstration on the following day.

Friday May 11, 2007

Bicycle protest against the First Interamerican Biofuels Congress in the Hotel Presidente Alvear in Buenos Aires.
Why are we demonstrating?

With ex-vicepresident Al Gore as keynote speaker, the Biofuels Congress is a presentation of the agrofuels business initiatives, sources of financing, local projects and other regions, uniting investors, government officials and lawmakers and transnational corporations dedicated to the expansion of the agrofuels industry.

The Agrofuels Industry is not a solution to our current climate, ecological, social and economic problems! It will only MAKE THINGS WORSE.

We must reduce petroleum/fuel dependency by REDUCING CONSUMPTION. The key to this is a RETURN TO LOCAL PRODUCTION OF FOODS, GOODS and FUELS.

However, the major transnational corporations are seizing upon the green image of agrofuels, to consolidate power and promote the continued growth of consumption of agrofuels, at the costs of deforestation and transformation of our agriculture to produce fuels not food.

The industrial production of agrofuels requires huge plantations, mechanized industrially with monocrops of soy, corn, palm, rape, utilizing GMO seeds, huge quantities of petroleum-based agrotoxins and fertilizers. This causes soil exhaustion, desertification and the destruction of ecosystems. This production is not sustainable, healthy, nor ecological.

Small farmers are being evicted for the expansion of monocrops, medium farmers forced to rent their lands to the soybean speculation pools. This means fewer jobs due to the mechanization of agroindustry. A small portion of society benefits, as well as the transnational monopoly corporations who provide shipping, machines, technology and supplies, such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Nidera, Bunge, ADM, Cargill, Repsol-YPF,Petrobrás, Shell, Exxon, Mobil, BP, etc.

Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina are being "developed" for corporate profits and power at the expense of biodiversity, culture, sustainability, and present and future food sovereignty.

For this We say NO MORE to these destructive interventions in our land, people and nature.

The bicycle protest passed by and denounced the following corporations:

International Development Bank (multilateral credit agency which foments the development of infrastructure and market conditions for the agrofuels industry)
Cargill (The invisible giant. Largest world corporation in international grains commerce, along with Bunge and Archer Daniel Midland ADM)
Monsanto (World's largest biotechnology corporation)
Los Grobo (largest Argentine agroindustrial corporation, vanguard of the implementation of GMO soy monocrop in Argentina)
INTA (public institute for agricultural research, controlled by global interests and principal fomentor of agrofuels for export)
Repsol - YPF (Privatized petroleum company looking for biofuels profits, along with other petroleum corporations, such as Shell, Petrográs, British Petroleum, DuPont, etc.
Volkswagen (taking advantage of and promoting the agrofuels craze, Volkswagen is one of the largest automobile producers in the world)
Argentine Secretary of Agriculture (argentine politicians and officials are falling over themselves to give tax credits and breaks to enable foreign insertion and conversion of argentine lands into plantations for production of raw materials for agrofuels.)
Rural Society of Argentina (organization of large landowners in Argentina)
Government of the Province of Santiago del Estero (A beautiful and poor province whose corrupt politicians are selling out to foreign soy plantations for the cultivation of raw materials for biodiesel production. Deforestation, social conflict, contamination and an exodus of small farmers and campesinos are happening as a result.

Statement presented by the Grupo Reflexion Rural

Our Opposition to the Visit of Al Gore to Buenos Aires, Argentina
Grupo Reflexión Rural
May 15, 2007

The ex-Vice President Al Gore participated in the closing of the First Interamerican Biofuels Congress, carried out on May 11 in Buenos Aires.

Present in the congress were politicians and corporate representatives paying $500 per person. According the Argentine newspaper which serves as lobbyist for the agrofuel industry, El Clarín, "It is widely known that the ex-president charges $170,000 to appear at conferences."

The principal hosts of the event were multinational petroleum firms Repsol and YPF, and the sadly-celebré Argentine province of Santiago del Estero, a region in which in order to plant GMO soy, a large-scale deforestation and repression of rural populations campaign is well under way.

The mere presence of Al Gore in this meeting has served as a media and propaganda coup in favor of the agrofuels industry.

In the month of March of this year, along with members of various civil society organizations from Europe and Latin America, we wrote to Al Gore, requesting a meeting. We awaited the opportunity to present him with our worries about the sweeping changes in political policies which are promoting agrofuels without taking into account, among other things, the severe negative impact of intensive agriculture required for the production of the so-called "biofuels."

Palm and soybean oil are the principal supplies for the production of biodiesel, which beginning in 2010 will exponentially increase to meet demand legislated by Europe and the United States. This will increase the severity of the negative environmental and social impacts in an irreversible manner.

Two weeks ago, we again wrote to Al Gore's office, reminding him that we wished to have a meeting with him, but this final request was also ignored.

In the congress in Buenos Aires, Al Gore, like many others, asked for safeguards in the production of agrofuels, but concluded, flippantly that the production of agrofuels "could be the solution of the climate crisis, without damaging the environment." In his speech he did not mention the uncontrolled use of agrochemical pesticides in the huge palm and soy plantations, neither the super-nitrogenated fertilizers which are part of the technological packet utilized.

Al Gore absolutely does not question genetically modified seeds. And to our understanding, the proposals for reduction of consumption in his and other industrialized countries which consume an absolute part of the worlds energy, are not serious nor do they take into account the urgency for the radical change of lifestyle necessary in the face of the climate change.

Neither does Al Gore take into account the reality shown by current industrial monocrop production of raw materials for agrofuels, which is causing the desertification of the finest lands in this world. This production, right now, even before production goals proposed by the soon-to-be-massive consumers of agrofuels, are already causing the expulsion of small farmers and indigenous persons from their lands, the abandonment of subsistence farming and local food production. This exodus is carried out through chemical fumigations and directly at the hands of police, military and paramilitary forces.

The current soy production is imposed upon these lands to produce feedstock for the massive cow and chicken factory farms of Europe. This has already caused a massive deforestation of native forests throughout the world, has increased the levels of illnesses both zootoxic and caused by fumigation and use of pesticides on the monocrops.

Now with agrofuel propaganda, which Al Gore favors in his discourse and presence, these problems are to be heightened in a spine-chilling and insane rhythm, with totally predictable and catastrophic consequences.

For these reasons, the Grupo de Reflexión Rural, along with other local groups, decided to demonstrate our position in front of the Hotel where the congress was taking place. We revealed a 8 meter long banner which said "STOP THE FUMIGATIONS." The Argentine and International press interpreted, because of ignorance or convenience, that our banner referred to the fumigations of the coca plantations in Colombia.

The reality is that this banner refers specifically to our campaign in Argentina against the criminal fumigations being carried out on rural and peri-urban populations throughout the country. The news reports also said that we were supporters of Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, leaders who are also worried by the lack of food supplies of soy and corn which the agrofuels are causing. Certainly none of the groups present in front of the hotel mentioned neither of these Latin American leaders, but yes, we expressed that soy kills, as much by its use and abuse of agrotoxins as its role in replacing the production of food for the Argentine and Paraguayan people, destroying our food sovereignty.

If Al Gore is really worried about the environment, he should get serious and work towards a moratorium against proposals to use agrofuels to replace fossil fuels. He should listen to the voices of the victims of the modes of production of agrofuels in the countries which produce the raw materials. Al Gore should be a bit more realistic, re-read the letter we sent him and take note that there is no way of producing agrofuels in a "sustainable or responsible" manner to maintain the level of energy gluttony of the "developed" countries.

We fear that the campaigns to provide fuels for European motors from our agriculture will increase poverty and hunger, will sharpen the environmental crisis, and deepen the current model of economic dependency in Argentina. On the international level this campaign, which almost all local politicians are supporting with reckless irresponsibility and complicity, carries with it the process of advancement of globalized capitalism, in which the agro- and biotechnology industries and automobile and petroleum companies combine to reconfigure the planet to their will, and convert the climate change and the already-occurring ecological catastrophes into a new and formidable business as a means towards the eventual appropriation of total power.



Grupo de Reflexión Rural,
Argentina, May 15, 2007

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