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biofuels

Philippines Diaries, Day 4, Part 2 - The Reforestation Charade

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Jun 16, 2011 at 09:00:00 AM PDT

I was recently part of an International Fact Finding Mission to the Philippines. Our group investigated the impact of a biethanol project that uses sugarcane as its feedstock on the local environment, food security, land grabbing, and human rights. This diary covers the afternoon of June 1, when I visited a forest restoration area.

You can see previous diaries here:
Days 1 & 2: Arrival and Travel to Isabela
Day 3, Part 1: Pesticide Shopping in San Mariano
Day 3, Part 2: Interviewing Indigenous Farmworkers
Day 3, Part 3: The Bioethanol Plant
Day 3, Part 4: Land Grabbing
Day 4, Part 1: "We Eat Animal Feed When We Can't Afford Rice"

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 993 words in story)

Philippines Diaries, Day 4, Part 1 - "We Eat Animal Feed When We Can't Afford Rice"

by: Jill Richardson

Tue Jun 14, 2011 at 21:08:12 PM PDT

I was recently part of an International Fact Finding Mission to the Philippines. Our group investigated the impact of a biethanol project that uses sugarcane as its feedstock on the local environment, food security, land grabbing, and human rights. This diary covers the morning of June 1, when I helped interview a family that was really struggling to hang on.

You can see previous diaries here:
Days 1 & 2: Arrival and Travel to Isabela
Day 3, Part 1: Pesticide Shopping in San Mariano
Day 3, Part 2: Interviewing Indigenous Farmworkers
Day 3, Part 3: The Bioethanol Plant
Day 3, Part 4: Land Grabbing

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Philippines Diaries, Day 3, Part 4 - Land Grabbing

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jun 13, 2011 at 21:41:44 PM PDT

I was recently part of an International Fact Finding Mission to the Philippines. Our group investigated the impact of a biethanol project that uses sugarcane as its feedstock on the local environment, food security, land grabbing, and human rights. This diary covers the afternoon of May 31, 2011, when things sort of went all to hell.

You can see previous diaries here:
Days 1 & 2: Arrival and Travel to Isabela
Day 3, Part 1: Pesticide Shopping in San Mariano
Day 3, Part 2: Interviewing Indigenous Farmworkers
Day 3, Part 3: The Bioethanol Plant

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Philippines Diaries, Day 3, Part 3 - The Bioethanol Plant

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jun 13, 2011 at 05:34:14 AM PDT

I was recently part of an International Fact Finding Mission to the Philippines. Our group investigated the impact of a biethanol project that uses sugarcane as its feedstock on the local environment, food security, land grabbing, and human rights. This diary covers the May 31, 2011 visit to the bioethanol plant, which is currently under construction.

You can see previous diaries here:
Days 1 & 2: Arrival and Travel to Isabela
Day 3, Part 1: Pesticide Shopping in San Mariano
Day 3, Part 2: Interviewing Indigenous Farmworkers

There's More... :: (27 Comments, 813 words in story)

Philippines Diaries, Day 3, Part 2 - Interviewing Indigenous Farmworkers

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Jun 11, 2011 at 07:12:01 AM PDT

I was recently part of an International Fact Finding Mission to the Philippines. Our group investigated the impact of a biethanol project that uses sugarcane as its feedstock on the local environment, food security, land grabbing, and human rights. This diary covers the morning of our third day, when we interviewed sugarcane plantation farmworkers and their families.

You can see previous diaries here:
Days 1 & 2: Arrival and Travel to Isabela
Day 3, Part 1: Pesticide Shopping in San Mariano

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 1203 words in story)

Philippines Diaries, Day 3, Part 1 - Pesticide Shopping in San Mariano

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Jun 11, 2011 at 01:43:55 AM PDT

I was recently part of an International Fact Finding Mission to the Philippines. Our group investigated the impact of a biethanol project that uses sugarcane as its feedstock on the local environment, food security, land grabbing, and human rights. This diary covers the morning of our third day, when we woke up in San Mariano and I stumbled into a seed & pesticide store.

You can see previous diaries here:
Days 1 & 2: Arrival and Travel to Isabela

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 1297 words in story)

Philippines Diaries: Days 1 & 2 - Arrival & Travel to Isabela

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 15:35:18 PM PDT

I was recently part of an International Fact Finding Mission to the Philippines. Our group investigated the impact of a biethanol project on the local environment, food security, land grabbing, and human rights. Here's our story...
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More Info on New GE Corn Enogen

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 22:49:36 PM PST

The Big Ag radio show, AgriTalk, has a recent show on the new GE corn Enogen, with side by side interviews of Syngenta's PR guy and a representative of the North American Millers' Association. Enogen, which was deregulated by the USDA today, is a genetically engineered variety of corn with an extra enzyme in it that makes it easier to turn into ethanol. And, while great for the ethanol industry, the new corn could be disastrous to food companies and grain millers if it finds its way into the food chain.

This show provides some new information that I had not heard before. First of all, Enogen has been approved for both the animal and human food supplies even though it is not intended for either. Therefore, if it is detected in say, taco shells, the taco shells won't have to be recalled. However, the North American Millers' Association is complaining that Syngenta never allowed them to get the necessary proof that Enogen would not be harmful to food production. Rumor has it that as little as one corn kernel in 10,000 will ruin a batch of whatever food producers are making. That's because the extra enzyme, Amylase, breaks down corn starch. Imagine baking something that calls for corn starch and accidentally having that corn starch completely break down... obviously that would impact, if not ruin, whatever you were baking. That's the gripe of the millers about this new GE corn.

If the words of Syngenta's PR guy are correct, if corn growers will get an extra $.40/bushel by growing this corn and selling it to ethanol producers, then a corn grower would have to be quite stupid to grow Enogen and then sell it into the human food supply. That said, stupidity happens. Just ask the Iowa farmer who grew non-Roundup Ready corn and, when it was about knee-high, sprayed the entire field with Roundup and killed the whole crop. That's not a made-up example. I saw the resulting field of dead corn with my own eyes.

The representative from the millers association gave an even more likely scenario, of some Enogen corn kernels remaining in a truck which is then loaded with regular non-Enogen corn, or something like that. If it happened, that would mean a very small amount of contamination, but if it only takes a small amount of contamination to make a real mess of things, you can see why they are concerned.

The reason why we are seeing so many GE crop deregulations now is because the USDA is working to finish everything before farmers buy this year's seeds. They want to allow the new biotech varieties into this crop year. Let's hope this was the last one for this year.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Biofuel Corn: One More @#$%@#$ GMO Deregulated

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Feb 11, 2011 at 15:24:05 PM PST

When I wrote an article about ethanol earlier this week, I didn't realize how timely it would be. The piece - which cites data showing that corn ethanol is not a good source of energy - was barely online for 24 hours before the USDA took yet another step toward more corn ethanol and more GMOs, deregulating a variety of GE corn designed to produce ethanol. The only plot twist is that the new GE corn isn't a Monsanto product - it's from Syngenta. And, at least some big businesses are on the anti-GMO side for a change.

The new GE corn, Enogen, is designed to require less energy to turn it into ethanol. For making ethanol with regular corn, it takes 1 unit of energy to produce 1.3 units of energy - and that's not a good deal. Scientists say that a fuel should provide 5 units of energy for every 1 required to make the fuel and transport it to the point of use. (Oil, in case you are wondering, has a 3:1 ratio, making it a better, but still bad, choice.) I have not yet seen data on what the ratio would be of Enogen, but of course, there are other concerns aside from just that.

The top concern, of course, is the mixing of Enogen with corn destined for the human food supply. That's what has food companies fighting against it (for a nice change!). This year, Enogen will only be planted in Kansas and Nebraska. And for anyone who thinks it will be effectively kept out of the human food supply, I have two words for them: Starlink Corn.

I don't have more information on this at the moment, besides a Center for Food Safety press release, posted below. But I would like to leave you with a brilliant Joan Gussow quote about biofuels from her newest book, Growing, Older:

In less than two hundred years, we have used up half the entire legacy of solar energy laid down as petroleum during the life of the planet, so the notion that we can, year by year, use contemporary solar energy to grow ourselves out of the coming petroleum shortfall is inarguably absurd. - p. 48
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Republican attacks Thicke as "ultra radical"

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 02:28:25 AM PDT

Francis Thicke announced his candidacy for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture on Wednesday, advocating a range of policies that would yield huge economic and environmental benefits: increasing local food networks, promoting perennial crops for biofuels production and preserving soil and water resources, putting a "moratorium on state subsidies and tax incentives for building new corn ethanol plants," providing incentives for "farm-scale wind turbines," and giving county governments zoning authority ("local control") over CAFO siting.

Thicke also stated some facts that are rarely acknowledged in Iowa:

"I think that one of the fundamental problems that is being overlooked is that these markets are no longer competitive markets," he said. "Economists tell us that if more than 40 percent of a market is controlled by four or fewer firms that it begins to act like a monopoly rather than a free market. And, in hog markets, about 65 percent is controlled by four firms. In beef it is about 85 percent that is controlled by four firms. In dairy, one corporation processor controls about 40 percent of all the milk processing. The interesting thing is that while dairy farmers are at record loss levels, that corporation, during the last two quarters, has had record profits."

"Some real trust breaking - like Teddy Roosevelt style trust busting" needs to be done, according to Thicke, in order for the agricultural markets to realign.

A huge number of Iowans will welcome Thicke's perspective, but Republican Party of Iowa Executive Director Jeff Boeyink called Thicke an "ultra radical":

"Agriculture is serious business in Iowa, and now is not the time to experiment with the backbone of Iowa's economy," Boeyink said. [...]

Gov. Chet Culver, a fellow Democrat, did not reappoint Thicke to the commissions, prompting Boeyink to say if Thicke was "so far out of the mainstream for even liberal Governor Culver to stomach, then he is certainly too liberal to be entrusted with leading our state's agricultural community."

Incidentally, Culver's decision not to reappoint Thicke to the Environmental Protection Commission had nothing to do with "mainstream" opinion; it was an embarrassing cave to agribusiness.

Thicke responded to Boeyink's name-calling here. Excerpt:

[M]y campaign focuses on increasing the economic and environmental sustainability of Iowa's family farms. Advocating for conserving our soil, water quality, family farms, and rural communities is not radical. To me that fits the definition of a true conservative.

No kidding. Boeyink's probably desperate to change the subject from the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90, in which Republicans fell short after going all-in with a highly negative campaign.

Thanks to Jill for adding Thicke to the La Vida Locavore ActBlue page.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Guatamalans Against American Biofuels

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Jun 20, 2009 at 09:07:34 AM PDT

Several Guatemalan groups released a joint statement this week that opposes biofuels. What does this have to do with us? They oppose "the implementation of the renewable fuel targets developed by countries like the European Union and the United States" because those policies are going to affect THEIR country and hurt THEIR people. Read their statement below. It's an eye opener to how our policies affect countries and people around the world in ways we would never suspect.
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Sampler Platter 05.26.09

by: Jill Richardson

Tue May 26, 2009 at 22:27:32 PM PDT

Discuss :: (18 Comments)

Obama Administration Takes 1 Step Forward (Organics) and 2 Steps Back (Ethanol)

by: Jill Richardson

Wed May 06, 2009 at 06:00:00 AM PDT

Yesterday we had 2 big pieces of news. First, the announcement of $50 million to help farmers transition their land or livestock to organic (through the EQIP program at the USDA). Yay! The downside? Farmers have only 3 weeks to apply for the cash. So, let's call that one step forward. It's certainly not much more than that if some of the money might go un-used.

The two steps back came with the announcement of a major government push for ethanol. Step one is the creation of a new Biofuels Interagency Working Group that includes the cabinet secretaries for Energy, EPA, and USDA. Step two is the potential increase in the amount of ethanol allowed in our fuel - the "blend wall." It is currently set at 10% and may go to 15%.  

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A Long Overdue Biofuels Diary

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Mar 30, 2009 at 07:50:44 AM PDT

I've got a backlog of biofuels news to share. There's so much out there and I just keep procrastinating on reporting it. Maybe because biofuels aren't edible and, thus, they are less interesting. To start you off, Mother Jones talks about why biofuels are the rainforests' worst enemy. More news below.
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Biofuels: Scientists Hate 'Em, But Politicians Love 'Em. What Gives?

by: Jill Richardson

Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 07:00:00 AM PST

There's a lot of bad news about biofuels lately:

  • For example, Biofuels may speed up, not slow global warming: study, says that when demand for crops goes up, farmers will cut down rainforests and with them, deplete the planet's ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Grist makes this case too. And Mother Jones provides a fantastic investigative piece on the same theme.

  • As if that isn't enough, Civil Eats chatted with one of my favorite experts on agriculture and energy issues, David Pimentel. Here's an excerpt:

    His most recent paper Pimentel D et al. Food versus biofuels: environmental and economic costs, published in the journal Human Ecology, is as scathing an indictment of the effects of biofuel policy as a scientific paper can be. He and his coauthors conclude, "Growing crops for biofuel not only ignores the need to reduce fossil energy and land use, but exacerbates the problem of malnourishment worldwide."
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