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21 de agosto de 2012 | | | |

Deepening the Food Crisis

El Salvador: risks imposed by agrofuel push

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A bill to promote agrofuels in El Salvador threatens to deepen the food production crisis which is already seriously hit by droughts. Friends of the Earth El Salvador is warning about this “false solution” and its effects on the population.

In the past months, the Salvadoran territory has been seriously affected by the drought as a consequence of climate change at world level, a problem that threatens the food sovereignty and security of the country in a direct way.

With reference to this, CESTA - Friends of the Earth warns that if the bill promoted by the Ministry of Economy and the National Energy Council is passed, the result could be a deepening of the crisis.

Bio or agrofuels are not more than fuels produced with crops, in most cases with sugar cane, soy, palm oil and even corn.

However, in the world there is an ongoing debate whether agro or biofuels are a viable alternative for the generation of jobs, the reactivation of agriculture and energy diversification. In fact, at global level, there are clear signs of agrofuel production being the cause of the rise of food prices.

Head of CESTA, Silvia Quiroa, said that most experiences with this type of production have caused more negative than positive impacts. And El Salvador is no exception, since Quiroa believes that these projects would bring serious disadvantages for the country.

In the case of El Salvador, sugar cane would be the first choice to cover the production of biofuel, which would mean to deforest what’s left of forests or change the lands cultivated with basic grains for sugar cane, according to the environmentalist leader.

“Growing sugar cane around the world offers low quality jobs. Even children are hired in the harvest season”, said Quiroa, and added that agrofuels are a complex issue that impacts the working sector of the area.

Quiroa made reference to the case of Brazil or Argentina with large extensions of monoculture plantations dedicated to the production of agrofuels in environmentally important and sensitive areas.

In El Salvador, the production of food is not enough to cover consumption at national level, so the dependence on imported food is significant. This way, expanding the area cultivated with sugar cane to produce ethanol to be used as fuel would mean further deforestation, said Quiroa.

In addition, CESTA demanded the Legislative Assembly to conduct a serious debate about the energy needs of El Salvador.

The environmental impacts of crops used to produce fuels have been significant in terms of the high levels of deforestation and pollution caused by the use of chemical inputs, said CESTA’s environmentalist activist, Walter Gomez, in a press conference.

In addition, he said that this type of crops cannot be implemented in small lands since it is not profitable, on the contrary, large-extensions of land should be used, which contradicts peasant or family production at the level of the countryside.

And this situation is worsened by the fact that article 105 of the Salvadoran Constitution establishes that nobody can own over 245 hectares. With this, according to Gomez, the aim is to change the law to allow for the ownership of larger extensions of lands and be able to grow these crops in an extensive way.

The issue with biofuels has also caused problems with land ownership, such in the case of Honduras, where Honduran farmers are being displaced from their territories to give way to these monoculture plantations.

This is why it is necessary to raise awareness about the initiative of the Ministry of Economy and the National Energy Council to have a deeper discussion about the energy needs of El Salvador in the search for an energy matrix with viable resources for the country, highlighted both Quiroa and Gomez at the press conference.

“This type of policies needs to be analyzed before being implemented”, said Gomez after pointing out that extensive crops to produce agrofuels will be located in the best coastal lands of the country.

Article based on a report by Josefina Ramirez (CESTA Communications)

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