Opposition to Al Gore's visit in Buenos Aires
Stella Semino, Grupo de Reflexion Rural:
Al Gore, the North American ex-Vice President, participated in the closing of the First Inter-American Biofuels Congress, which took place in Buenos Aires on the 11th of May.
The congress was attended by politicians and corporate representatives paying who paid $500 per person to be there. According to El Clarin, the Argentine newspaper reported to be the lobbying tool for the agrofuels industry, El Clarín, "It is widely known that the ex-president charges $170,000 for conferences appearances."
Major sponsors of the event were Repsol and YPF, and regrettably, the Argentine province of Santiago del Estero, a region in which large-scale deforestation and repression of rural populations campaign is well under way in order to plant GM soya. (http://www.biofuelscongress.org/)
The mere presence of Al Gore at this meeting has served as a media and propaganda coup in favor of the agrofuels industry.
In 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 explained that the objective of this meeting was to tell him of our concerns relating to the surge in public policy to promote agrofuels without consideration of any other issues, such as the devastating effect created by the kind of intensive agriculture that is required for the production of agrofuels¦.we did not receive a reply.
Palm and soybean oil are the main raw materials for the production of biodiesel . It is estimated that from 2010 demand for this type of fuel will rise exponentially in Europe and the United States. This will increase the severity of environmental and social impacts with irreversible consequences.
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.
At the congress in Buenos Aires, Al Gore and many others, asked for safeguards in the production of agrofuels, but in his conclusions barely touched upon the fact that the production of agrofuels "could be the solution of to the climate crisis, without damaging the environment." During his speech he failed to mention the uncontrolled use of biochemical pesticides in the palm and soy plantations, nor did he mention the enormous quantities of fertilizers which form part of the technological! package used within the plantations.
Al Gore does not have the slightest concern about genetically modified seeds. Our understanding, of his proposals for reducing consumption in his country and other industrialized countries, such as those within Europe, which consume the lion’s share of global energy, are not serious measures. They do they take into account the urgency in which a radical change before nature itself forces these changes upon us through climate change.
Neither does Al Gore take into account the evidence from current monoculture production of raw materials for agrofuels, which is causing desertification of the best agricultural lands on a global scale. Production, has not yet reached anywhere near the scale proposed by those countries which will be the largest consumers of agrofuels, but we are already seeing the expulsion of small farmers and indigenous people from their lands, the abandonment of subsistence farming and local food production. This exodus is due to the effects on communities of chemical crop spraying, or due to the police, military and paramilitary forces.
Current soy production used for fodder for intensively reared animals has already caused a massive deforestation of native forests throughout the world, it has increased the incidence of zootoxic disease, as well as ill health caused by crop spraying and pesticide use.
As a result of Al Gore’s discourse and presence, he is now seen to support the agrofuels propaganda. All that had been discredited is increasing again at an alarming pace. The consequences are both predictable and catastrophic.
For these reasons, the Grupo de Reflexión Rural, along with other local groups, decided to organize a demonstration in front of the Hotel which hosted the congress. We unfolded an 8 meter long banner which said "STOP THE FUMIGATIONS." Both the Argentine and international press interpreted our banner as a reference to the fumigations of the coca plantations in Colombia.
The reality is that this banner refers specifically to our campaign in Argentina against crop spraying, which is a criminal act carried out against rural and semi-urban populations throughout the country. The news reports also said that we were supporters of Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. Both of these leaders are concerned by the scarcity of soya and corn which will come about as the crops are increasingly grown for agrofuels What is certain is that none of the groups present in front of the hotel mentioned neither of these Latin American! Leaders. What we do have in common is that we all agree that soya kills, through the use and abuse of agrochemicals. Also because it has replaced the production of food for the Argentine and Paraguayan people, and it has destroy our food sovereignty.
If Al Gore is really worried about the environment, he should take the issue seriously and work towards a moratorium against proposals to use agrofuels as a replacement for fossil fuels. He should listen to the voices of the people who live in the countries where the raw materials are produced and who have suffered because of the methods used to produce agrofuels . Al Gore should be realistic, re-read the letter we sent him and acknowledge that there is no way of producing sustainable or responsible agrofuels in order to maintain to the level of energy squandering which is taking place in the "developed" world.
We fear that the campaigns that have been initiated in order to provide fuel for motor cars at the cost of our agriculture will increase poverty and hunger, will increase 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 through their irresponsibility and complicity, carries with it the process of advancement of global capitalism, in which the agro- and biotechnology industries, the motor and oil industries unite and mould the planet to their will, turning climate change and the ecological catastrophes into a new and formidable business as a means towards the eventual appropriation of total control.
DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN!
LET US FIGHT TO MAINTAIN OUR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY!
Grupo de Reflexión Rural,
Argentina, May 15, 2007