Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy

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The Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy (AAFE) is a lobby group that was launched in July 2008 to promote crop-based biofuels as a replacement for fossil fuels. The group aims to counter criticisms that biofuels take land from food production and are contributing to the food crisis that has led to rising prices and food riots in countries around the world. The AAFE is lobbying governments to try to keep US President George W. Bush’s ethanol boom on track. The AAFE states, “We believe that both food and energy are fundamental human needs and we embrace actions and innovations that strengthen agriculture’s ability to produce both. We reject the falsity of 'either/or' choices.”[1]

The group comprises the grain processor and biofuels producer Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), the GM seeds and chemical companies Monsanto and DuPont, the manufacturer of farm equipment Deere & Company, and the corporate-funded lobbying organisation the Renewable Fuels Association[2].

The AAFE states on its website, “We encourage the acceptance of technologies as they become commercially viable and scalable, towards our goal of continually improving the environmental and economic benefit of biofuels.”[3] The AAFE does not define these “technologies”. But Monsanto and DuPont are among the leading producers of genetically modified (GM) crops, so there is no doubt that GM crops designed for food and biofuel production are a major part of its agenda. This is supported by a Reuters report on the group’s launch, which notes, “The group believes that agricultural innovation – such as genetically modified crops – is the best way to address global hunger, not reducing biofuel production.”[4]

Contents

History

Environmental groups warned that a move to biofuels would cause a food crisis as far back as 2005, when the Bush administration and Congress launched the ethanol boom with the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) mandate. The mandate requires the United States to increase usage of renewable and alternative fuels.[5]

But when the current food crisis and food price rises emerged in 2008, the US government insisted that biofuels contribute to price rises by no more than 2 to 3%[6]. This claim was flatly contradicted by a World Bank report, leaked to The Guardian in July 2008, which confirmed what environmental and other groups had said all along. Biofuels, said the report, have forced global food prices up by a massive 75%[7].

This makes biofuels by far the single most important factor in creating the food crisis. According to The Guardian, senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, was not initially made public to avoid embarrassing President George W. Bush[8].

The World Bank is just one of a number of prominent commentators who have named biofuels as a major cause of the food crisis. The AAFE has countered the rising tide of criticism by posting on its website a report authored by the pro-GM and pro-biofuels American Soybean Association and sponsored by agrochemicals and GM company BASF, entitled “Myths and Realities Behind Rising Food Prices”.

The report says, “The demand for biofuels has played a relatively small role in rising food prices.” It cites the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service as saying that the main reasons for rising food prices are “an explosion in energy costs driven largely by the price of petroleum, the surging demand for food and livestock feed from a growing and increasingly prosperous middle class in countries like China and India, drought and other weather patterns that reduced yields in numerous regions of the world, the declining value of the US dollar, and export restrictions imposed by some countries.”[9] Anything, in other words, except biofuels.

The early proponents of biofuels were the same companies that produce, process, and deal in GM seed and crops: Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland, among others. These companies actively lobbied both the European Union and the US government to support biofuels and enforce their use through legislation.

The lucrative biofuels market provides these companies with many benefits. It offers a new entry point for GM crops and attracted government subsidies aimed at combating climate change. It also enables companies to sidestep the unpopularity of GM foods with consumers, as the GM biofuel crops are destined to be burnt rather than eaten.

The irony is that the biofuels solution to the energy crisis is being pushed by the same companies that were a major cause of the food crisis in the first place!

The GM industry’s cynical lobbying for biofuels should destroy the illusions of anyone who still thinks that the industry is genuinely interested in feeding the world or solving the energy and climate change problems.

In the late 1990s, Monsanto launched a massive PR campaign in Britain claiming that GMOs were vital to feed the world. One of its advertisements from 1998 read: "As we stand on the edge of a new millennium, we dream of a tomorrow without hunger… Worrying about starving future generations won't feed them. Food biotechnology will."[10]

Here's a typical response at the time from one of Monsanto's many critics, Friends of the Earth UK’s Tony Juniper: "People know over here that, in fact, poverty is the principal cause of hunger in the Third World. There isn't a shortage of food. And people are quite rightly, in our view, interpreting these claims as a means to get bigger markets to get a return on the investments that Monsanto has put into generating these new crop technologies."[11]

Monsanto, of course, denied that what it was doing involved exploiting the poor and hungry to promote GMOs through emotional blackmail. But in July 2008, while launching the Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy in an effort to keep the biofuel boom on course, Monsanto's chief technology officer Rob Fraley said, "From a production perspective, we have abundance [of food]". Fraley went on to say that the "challenges" are distribution and access to food because of wealth distribution – i.e. poverty![12] Clearly, Monsanto's view of hunger depends on which product it wants to promote at any one time: GM miracle crops to feed the world, or biofuels to keep the West's cars on the road.

Funding and finances

According to a Reuters report on the launch of the Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy, the group's executive director Mark Kornblau described its initial budget as "in the multimillions”[13].

Contact details, Resources, Notes

Contact

Notes

  1. Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy website, accessed September 2008
  2. Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy website, accessed September 2008
  3. Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy website, accessed September 2008
  4. Lisa Shumaker, "New U.S. group defends ethanol in food vs fuel fight", Reuters, 24 July 2008, accessed September 2008
  5. Kelsi Bracmort, Meeting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandate for cellulosic biofuels: Questions and answers, Natural Resources, 14 Mar 2010, acc 20 Apr 2010
  6. Edward T. Schafer, US agriculture secretary, quoted in Andrew Martin, "Food Report Criticizes Biofuel Policies", The New York Times, 30 May 2008, accessed September 2008
  7. Aditya Chakrabortty, "Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis", The Guardian, 4 July 2008, accessed September 2008
  8. Aditya Chakrabortty, "Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis", The Guardian, 4 July 2008, accessed September 2008
  9. "Myths and Realities Behind Rising Food Prices", American Soybean Association, July 2008, accessed September 2008
  10. This advertisement has been removed from Monsanto’s website, but it is quoted in George Monbiot, "Feeding the hunger machine", The Guardian, 3 June 1999, accessed September 2008
  11. Tony Juniper, interviewed by Dan Charles on "All Things Considered", National Public Radio, 16 March 1999, accessed September 2008
  12. "Agribusiness alliance sharpens food-versus-fuel debate: ADM, Monsanto and others argue ethanol subsidies should stay", Dow Jones Newswires, 25 July 2008, accessed September 2008
  13. Lisa Shumaker, "New U.S. group defends ethanol in food vs fuel fight", Reuters, 24 July 2008, accessed September 2008

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