Ecologists blast Rome food summit

From the Global Forest Coalition, June 5:

A Black Day for the Environment: False Solutions to Food Crisis will Escalate Starvation,
Accelerate Climate Change and Devastate Biodiversity

Rome — The Global Forest Coalition, a worldwide coalition of environmental NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations, has called World Environment Day 2008 a black day for the environment, now that it appears the FAO Summit on World Food Security will fail to agree on an immediate halt to all forms of support for agrofuels. Instead, countries like the U.S. seem eager to exploit the current human tragedy for the promotion of a new ‘Green Revolution,’ which will have devastating impacts on both the climate and biodiversity.

“The rapid expansion of large-scale unsustainable agriculture that is being promoted at this Summit will lead to massive deforestation, thus contributing significantly to climate change,” warns Dr. Miguel Lovera, the chairperson of the Global Forest Coalition. “In a country like Paraguay we have seen how the expansion of large-scale agro-industrial monocultures like soy has displaced small farmers and Indigenous Peoples, destroyed their forests, and contaminated their water resources with agro-chemicals, with devastating impacts on the health, welfare, and nutrition of rural communities.”

It is widely acknowledged that the current food crisis has been caused by a combination of factors: climate change, a history of corporate-led globalization of food production and trade, increased consumption of meat and dairy products and the rapid expansion of agrofuels.

“Considering these factors, the one quick measure Heads of States could have taken to save the lives of many of the thousands of people currently starving, is to call for an immediate halt of all subsidies and other kinds of support to agrofuel production,” stated Dr. Rachel Smolker of Global Justice Ecology Project, and the lead agrofuel researcher for the Global Forest Coalition. Dr. Smolker concluded, “By failing to take this emergency measure, countries like the U.S. have made it clear that their main allegiance is to the agro-industrial interests that are capitalizing on the current crisis to promote their biotechnology, agro-chemicals, artificial fertilizers and other false solutions to the food crisis. This model of industrial agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, deforestation, rural depopulation as well as starvation. The ‘solutions’ being proposed by FAO will only worsen the situation. Food production, land and water rights must be put back into the hands of people, not corporations if we are to find a true solution to this crisis.”

Climate change will have a particularly devastating effects in regions like Africa and the Pacific, that are already suffering disproportionately from the current food crisis. “By the end of this century 15 out of 27 nations in the Pacific will either no longer exist or will be totally uninhabitable,” alerts Sandy Gauntlett, chairperson of the Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition. He ends, “The reality of agrofuels is that it is an economic measure that allows big industry to peddle psychological relief to the European and American consumer while the Pacific drowns and slowly starves.”

See our last posts on peak food and agrofuels.