Special to the Des Moines Register
February 11, 2007
By Eric Holt-Gimenez and Kevin Fingerman
Biofuels, derived from everything from corn to French-fry grease, are being widely touted in corporate advertisements, news stories and recently in the president's State of the Union address as a silver-bullet solution to global warming, the savior of depressed rural economies and the key to reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
The apparent free lunch of crop-based fuel can't satisfy our energy appetite - and it will not be free, or environmentally sound. Dedicating all present U.S. corn and soybean production to biofuels would meet only 12 percent of our gasoline demand and 6 percent of diesel demand. On average, corn ethanol - the leading biofuels candidate in the United States - provides only a 13 percent reduction of greenhouse gases compared to gasoline. This advantage is lost if, as happens in South America, carbon-capturing forests are felled to make way for biofuel crops.
The Berkeley Daily Planet www.berkeleydailyplanet.com
News Analysis By Miguel A. Altieri and Eric Holt-Gimenez (02-06-07)
With royal fanfare, British Petroleum just donated $500 million in research funds for UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois to develop new sources of energy—primarily biotechnology to produce biofuel crops. This comes on the anniversary of Berkeley’s hapless research deal with seed giant Novartis ten years ago. However, at half a billion dollars, the BP grant dwarfs Novartis’ investment by a factor of 10. The graphics of the announcement were unmistakable: BP’s corporate logo is perfectly aligned with the flags of the Nation, the State, and the University.
by Kirsten Schwind and Hollace Poole-Kavana
Originally published on June 21, 2005 on CommonDreams.org
Monsanto's announcement of their plans to purchase Seminis, the largest fruit and vegetable seed producer in the world, was quickly followed by a statement that Monsanto does not intend to apply biotech to develop these seeds-at least not yet. This is a curious assertion from a dominant biotech company.
The question of how to insure meaningful participation by the rural poor in discussing the benefits and drawbacks of GMOs cannot be abstracted from vast power asymmetries that characterize global and regional food systems - in particular, small growers lack of access to land, cultural appropriate and scale-relevant infrastructure and technology, and market opportunities on fair terms. The manner in which GE technologies are developed reinforces these inequalities - techniques are selected on the basis of their promise to extend private proprietary control over seed markets and expand market shares for proprietary herbicides; these technologies are then "presented" to the poor as the means of insuring higher yields, with discussion limited to the virtues, or lack thereof, of their further application/dissemination.
By denying tenure to Dr. Ignacio Chapela, Assistant Professor of Ecosystem Sciences, the University of California at Berkeley displays negligence toward its mission as a public institution serving the interests of the people of the State of California.
Every four years Americans rejoice in our athletes' successes in the Summer Olympic Games. We love winners. Our patriotism soars when we read the daily medal tallies and see how the U.S. outperforms the rest of the world. But Americans are much less zealous about being No. 1 when it comes to some other measures of our nation's success. How is it possible that our great country ranks only 40th in the world in infant mortality (the death rates of children up to 1 year of age)? This is worse than many Eastern European and Asian countries. Shouldn't all Americans be indignant that we don't have the lowest infant mortality rate in the world?
Even the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that 2003- 2004 was the best harvest North Korea had in nine years. But they are still facing a food deficit of 944,000 tons of food, meaning that at least 6.5 million North Koreans will go hungry this year.
What is genetic engineering of crops good for? Anything that ails consumers, farmers or the environment, if we believe biotechnology publicists. The opening media event at BIO 2004, the industry's promotional show in San Francisco, features a celebrity-chef brunch with a panel on "Biotech Solutions for Obesity."