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From: Peter Rosset <[log in to unmask]>
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Subject: [Geactivists] UC's biotech-biofuel benefactors: The power of big
 finance and bad ideas
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UC's  biotech-biofuel benefactors: The power of big finance and bad ideas

Miguel A Altieri, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
Eric Holt-Gimenez, Executive Director, Food First. Oakland

With royal fanfare, British Petroleum just=20
donated big monies in research funds for UC=20
Berkeley,  Lawrence Livermore Laboratories and=20
the University of Illinois to develop new sources=20
of energy -- primarily biotechnology to produce=20
biofuel crops. This comes on the anniversary of=20
Berkeley's hapless research deal with seed giant=20
Novartis ten years ago. However, at half a=20
billion dollars, the BP grant dwarfs Novartis'=20
investment by a factor of ten.  The graphics of=20
the announcement were unmistakable:  BP's=20
corporate logo is perfectly aligned with the=20
flags of the Nation, the State, and the=20
University.

CEO/Chairman Robert A. Malone proclaimed BP was=20
"[J]oining some of the world's best science and=20
engineering talent to meet the demand for low=20
carbon energy=8A we will be working to improve and=20
expand the production of clean, renewable energy=20
through the development of better crops=8A"  This=20
partnership reflects the rapid, unchecked and=20
unprecedented global corporate alignment of the=20
world's largest agribusiness (ADM, Cargill and=20
Bunge), biotech (Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer,=20
Dupont),  petroleum (BP,  TOTAL, Shell), and=20
automotive industries (Volkswagen, Peugeot,=20
Citroen, Renault, SAAB). With what for them is a=20
relatively small investment, these industries=20
will appropriate academic expertise built over=20
decades of public support, translating into=20
billions in revenues for these global partners.

Could this be a "win-win" agenda for the=20
University, the public, the environment and=20
industry?  Hardly. In addition to overwhelming=20
the University's research agenda, what scientists=20
behind this blatantly private business venture=20
fail to mention, is that the apparent free lunch=20
of crop-based fuel can't satisfy our energy=20
appetite, and it will not be free, nor=20
environmentally sound. 

Dedicating all present U.S. corn and soybean=20
production to biofuels would meet only 12% of our=20
gasoline demand and 6% of diesel demand.  Total=20
US cropland reaches 625,000 sq.mi. To replace US=20
oil consumption with biofuels we would need 1.4=20
million sq.mi. of corn for ethanol and 8.8=20
million sq. mi. of soybean for biodiesel.=20
Biofuels are expected to turn Iowa and South=20
Dakota into corn-importers by 2008.

The biofuel energy balance -- the amount of=20
fossil energy put in to producing crop biomass=20
compared to that coming out -- is anything but=20
promising. Researchers Patzek and Pimentel see=20
serious negative energy balances with biofuels.=20
Other researchers see only 1.2 to 1.8 fold=20
returns, for ethanol, at best, with the jury=20
still lukewarm on cellulosic biofuels.

Industrial methods of corn and soybean production=20
depend on large scale monocultures. Industrial=20
corn requires high levels of chemical nitrogen=20
fertilizer (largely responsible for the dead zone=20
in Gulf of Mexico) and the herbicide atrazine, an=20
endocrine disruptor. Soybeans require massive=20
amounts of non selective, Roundup herbicide that=20
upsets soil ecology and produces "superweeds."=20
Both monocultures produce massive topsoil erosion=20
and surface and groundwater pollution from=20
pesticides and fertilizer runoff. Each gallon of=20
ethanol sucks up 3-4 gallons of water in the=20
production of biomass. The expansion of irrigated=20
"fuel on the cob" into drier areas in the Midwest=20
will draw down the already suffering Ogallala=20
aquifer.

One of the more surreptitious industrial motives=20
of the biofuels agenda -- and the reason Monsanto=20
and company are key players -- is the opportunity=20
to irreversibly convert agriculture to=20
genetically engineered crops (GMOs). Presently,=20
52% of corn, 89% of soy, and 50% of canola in the=20
US are GMO. The expansion of biofuels with=20
"designer corn" genetically tailored for special=20
ethanol processing plants will remove all=20
practical barriers to the permanent contamination=20
of all non-GMO crops.

Obviously the US can't satisfy its energy=20
appetite with biofuels. Instead, fuel crops will=20
be grown in the developing world on large scale=20
plantations of sugarcane, oil palm and soybean,=20
which are already replacing primary and secondary=20
tropical forests and grasslands in Argentina,=20
Brasil,  Colombia, Ecuador, and Malaysia.=20
Soybeans have already caused the destruction of=20
over 91 million acres of forests and grasslands=20
in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. To=20
satisfy world market demands, Brasil alone will=20
need to clear 148 million additional acres of=20
forest. Reduction of greenhouse gases is lost=20
when carbon-capturing forests are felled to make=20
way for biofuel crops.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of small-scale=20
peasant farmers are being displaced by soybean=20
expansion. Many more stand to lose their land=20
under the biofuels stampede. Already, the=20
expanding cropland planted to yellow corn for=20
ethanol has reduced the supply of white corn for=20
tortillas in Mexico, sending prices up 400%. This=20
led peasant leaders at the recent World Social=20
=46orum in Nairobi to demand, "No full tanks when=20
there are still empty bellies!"

By promoting large scale mechanized monocultures=20
which require agrochemical inputs and machinery,=20
and as carbon-capturing forests are felled to=20
make way for biofuel crops, CO2 emissions will=20
increase not decrease. The only way to stop=20
global warming is to  promote small scale organic=20
agriculture and decrease the use of  all fuels,=20
which requires major reductions in consumption=20
patterns and development of massive public=20
transportation systems, areas that the University=20
of California should be actively researching and=20
that BP and the other biofuel partners will never=20
invest one penny toward.

The potential consequences for the environment=20
and society of BP's funding are deeply=20
disturbing. In the wake of the report of the=20
external review of the UCB-Novartis agreement,=20
that recommended that the University not enter=20
into such agreements in the future, how could=20
such a major deal be announced without wide=20
consultation of the UC Faculty? The University=20
has been recruited into a corporate partnership=20
that may irreversibly transform the planet's food=20
and fuel systems and concentrate tremendous power=20
in the hands of a few corporate partners.

It is up to the citizens of California to hold=20
the University  accountable to research that=20
supports truly sustainable alternatives to the=20
energy crisis. A serious public debate on this=20
new program is long overdue.

--============_-1041515203==_ma============
Content-Type: text/html; charset="iso-8859-1"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable

<!doctype html public "-//W3C//DTD W3 HTML//EN">
<html><head><style type=3D"text/css"><!--
blockquote, dl, ul, ol, li { padding-top: 0 ; padding-bottom: 0 }
 --></style><title>UC's biotech-biofuel benefactors: The power of big
finance</title></head><body>
<div><font color=3D"#000000"><b>UC's&nbsp; biotech-biofuel benefactors:
The power of big finance and bad ideas</b></font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000"><br>
Miguel A Altieri, Professor, University of California, Berkeley<br>
Eric Holt-Gimenez, Executive Director, Food First. Oakland<br>
<br>
With royal fanfare, British Petroleum just donated big monies in
research funds for UC Berkeley,&nbsp; Lawrence Livermore Laboratories
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 ten.&nbsp; The
graphics of the announcement were unmistakable:&nbsp; BP's corporate
logo is perfectly aligned with the flags of the Nation, the State, and
the University.</font><br>
</div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000">CEO/Chairman Robert A. Malone proclaimed BP
was&nbsp; &quot;[J]oining some of the world's best science and
engineering talent to meet the demand for low carbon energy=8A we will
be working to improve and expand the production of clean, renewable
energy through the development of better crops=8A&quot;&nbsp; This
partnership reflects the rapid, unchecked and unprecedented global
corporate alignment of the world's largest agribusiness (ADM, Cargill
and Bunge), biotech (Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dupont),&nbsp;
petroleum (BP,&nbsp; TOTAL, Shell), and automotive industries
(Volkswagen, Peugeot, Citroen, Renault, SAAB). With what for them is a
relatively small investment, these industries will appropriate
academic expertise built over decades of public support, translating
into billions in revenues for these global partners.</font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000"><br></font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000">Could this be a &quot;win-win&quot; agenda
for the University, the public, the environment and industry?&nbsp;
Hardly. In addition to overwhelming the University's research agenda,
what scientists behind this blatantly private business venture fail to
mention, is that the apparent free lunch of crop-based fuel can't
satisfy our energy appetite, and it will not be free, nor
environmentally sound.&nbsp;</font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000"><br></font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000">Dedicating all present U.S. corn and
soybean production to biofuels would meet only 12% of our gasoline
demand and 6% of diesel demand.&nbsp; Total US cropland reaches
625,000 sq.mi. To replace US oil consumption with biofuels we would
need 1.4 million sq.mi. of corn for ethanol and 8.8 million sq. mi. of
soybean for biodiesel. Biofuels are expected to turn Iowa and South
Dakota into corn-importers by 2008.</font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000"><br>
The biofuel energy balance -- the amount of fossil energy put in to
producing crop biomass compared to that coming out -- is anything but
promising. Researchers Patzek and Pimentel see serious negative energy
balances with biofuels. Other researchers see only 1.2 to 1.8 fold
returns, for ethanol, at best, with the jury still lukewarm on
cellulosic biofuels.</font><br>
</div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000">Industrial methods of corn and soybean
production depend on large scale monocultures. Industrial corn
requires high levels of chemical nitrogen fertilizer (largely
responsible for the dead zone in Gulf of Mexico) and the herbicide
atrazine, an endocrine disruptor. Soybeans require massive amounts of
non selective, Roundup herbicide that upsets soil ecology and produces
&quot;superweeds.&quot; Both monocultures produce massive topsoil
erosion and surface and groundwater pollution from pesticides and
fertilizer runoff. Each gallon of ethanol sucks up 3-4 gallons of
water in the production of biomass. The expansion of irrigated
&quot;fuel on the cob&quot; into drier areas in the Midwest will draw
down the already suffering Ogallala aquifer.</font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000"><br></font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000">One of the more surreptitious industrial
motives of the biofuels agenda -- and the reason Monsanto and company
are key players -- is the opportunity to irreversibly convert
agriculture to genetically engineered crops (GMOs). Presently, 52% of
corn, 89% of soy, and 50% of canola in the US are GMO. The expansion
of biofuels with &quot;designer corn&quot; genetically tailored for
special ethanol processing plants will remove all practical barriers
to the permanent contamination of all non-GMO crops.</font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000"><br></font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000">Obviously the US can't satisfy its energy
appetite with biofuels. Instead, fuel crops will be grown in the
developing world on large scale plantations of sugarcane, oil palm and
soybean, which are already replacing primary and secondary tropical
forests and grasslands in Argentina, Brasil,&nbsp; Colombia, Ecuador,
and Malaysia. Soybeans have already caused the destruction of over 91
million acres of forests and grasslands in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay
and Bolivia. To satisfy world market demands, Brasil alone will need
to clear 148 million additional acres of forest. Reduction of
greenhouse gases is lost when carbon-capturing forests are felled to
make way for biofuel crops.</font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000"><br></font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000">Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of
small-scale peasant farmers are being displaced by soybean expansion.
Many more stand to lose their land under the biofuels stampede.
Already, the expanding cropland planted to yellow corn for ethanol has
reduced the supply of white corn for tortillas in Mexico, sending
prices up 400%. This led peasant leaders at the recent World Social
=46orum in Nairobi to demand, &quot;No full tanks when there are still
empty bellies!&quot;</font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000"><br></font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000">By promoting large scale mechanized
monocultures which require agrochemical inputs and machinery, and as
carbon-capturing forests are felled to make way for biofuel crops, CO2
emissions will increase not decrease. The only way to stop global
warming is to&nbsp; promote small scale organic agriculture and
decrease the use of&nbsp; all fuels, which requires major reductions
in consumption patterns and development of massive public
transportation systems, areas that the University of California should
be actively researching and that BP and the other biofuel partners
will never invest one penny toward.</font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000"><br></font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000">The potential consequences for the
environment and society of BP's funding are deeply disturbing. In the
wake of the report of the external review of the UCB-Novartis
agreement, that recommended that the University not enter into such
agreements in the future, how could such a major deal be announced
without wide consultation of the UC Faculty? The University has been
recruited into a corporate partnership that may irreversibly transform
the planet's food and fuel systems and concentrate tremendous power in
the hands of a few corporate partners.</font></div>
<div><font color=3D"#000000"><br>
It is up to the citizens of California to hold the University&nbsp;
accountable to research that supports truly sustainable alternatives
to the energy crisis. A serious public debate on this new program is
long overdue.</font><br>
</div>
</body>
</html>
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