Position Paper of the Global South on Food Sovereignty, Energy
Sovereignty and the transition towards a post-oil society.
A first meeting of groups from the South was held in Ecuador-0 latitude
27th June-1st July 2007, to discuss agrofuels and the challenge of
"development" in a post petroleum society. This position statement
embodies the essence of our discussions, to open the debate from the
Appropriately labelled by the social movements as *AGROFUELS, the so
called "biofuels" and the generation of energy through biomass as a
whole*, as promoted by governments, corporations, development agencies,
the United Nations, financial international institutions and other
agents interested in industrial production and international trade --
does NOT change, but PERPETUATE the model of production and consumption
of the modern, urban and industrial social, political and economic order.
The ecological and energy crises that impact on the entire planet,
particularly the urgency to stop global warming, urges the world to take
a giant step towards transition to a post- petroleum society and
economy, requiring deep analysis and structural social, political and
Admitting that it is necessary to embrace alternative renewable
energies, it is indispensable to analyze the global strategy that drives
the feverish promotion of agro energy and its structural imperatives.
Hydrocarbons are the main driving force of the globalized economy, where
the extraction and control of fossil fuels has an intrinsic relationship
with the networks of power that control the world through control over
energy. In addition, it is an undeniable fact that in the current oil
civilization the main disasters, climatic catastrophes, wars, famines,
forced displacement and enslavement of people are inextricably linked to
the military control over territory and fossil energy.
*The energy / industrial matrix based on fossil fuels*, which sustains
the current urban-industrial civilization and the development status, is
in crisis. These energy sources are becoming exhausted, so capitalism is
desperately searching for new methods of energy generation, including
agrofuels. >From our perspective as agro - exporting countries of the
South, forced into this position by the logic of external debt and our
colonial history, agrofuels embody the further entrenchment of the
agribusiness model and industrial agriculture, understood as the sum of
monocultures, genetic engineering, agro-toxics,environmental destruction
and impoverishment of our societies especially those in our rural areas.
*In addition, Agrofuels means setting up a new global geopolitical grand
1. *Precedents and axes of resistance: Food Sovereignty*
The industrial agriculture model that begun with the Green Revolution is
petro-dependent in energy and inputs. *In addition, at the historical
root of the current industrial monocultures are plantations, a colonial
invention, which still today, reproduces and multiplies its rationality
and productive logic. *The end of the fossil fuel era thus also sounds
the death knoll for industrial agriculture and its antecedents.
The control over the global agro-food system constitutes one of the main
components of globalization. The effects of neoliberal policies in the
countryside, the expansion of agro biotechnology, the proliferation of
free trade agreements, including the struggle against an Agriculture
Agreement at the WTO, were the catalyzing force for the coalescence of
an international peasant movement (La Via Campesina). The privatization
of natural resources and ecosystems in indigenous territories
strengthened the resistance of the Indigenous peoples.
The political proposal of these movements is the 'Defence of Food
Sovereignty', expressed in the right of the Peoples' to control and
decide on their food production, distribution and consumption policies,
and whether or not to trade their agricultural surplus *once the needs
of the population had been secured. This should be done in accordance
with their cultural and environmental practises. This is a radical
proposal that demands the transformation of the economies of agro
exporting in the South and the consumption patterns of the North.
Since agriculture is inseparable from the protection of natural
resources such as water and land, decisions over the use and management
of such resources cannot be made by individual producers based on the
private ownership of land. Thus, the political principle of Food
Sovereignty espouses that the self determination of peoples to
guaranteed by the respect of their right to collective decision making
in respect of food production and agricultural, pastoral, fishery or
gathering activities, emphasizing this to be a fundamental principle.
Taking in account the richness of the shared political debate developed
by social movements, we firmly locate the agrofuels subject -- which
has already been defined as a the further entrenchment of agribusiness
--within the context advocated by Food Sovereignty.
The industrialization of agriculture by its very nature, results in
displacing the peasantry from the countryside as it embodies an
agricultural system without farmers. This model has far-reaching
implications for the whole of society. It implies dispossession of
communities of their land and the plunder of their territories,
concentration and privatization of land and water sources, erosion of
biodiversity, destruction of natural ecosystems, and the violence and
militarization required to force control over natural resources.
This process of marginalization of communities that begins in the
countryside is the cause of accelerated urbanization that resulted in
the crisis of energy supply, housing, health and other basic services,
jobs and access to food in the cities. Urban poverty breeds violence,
conflicts and the societal malaise that typifies the cities across the
It is a global, hegemonic and dialectic process that breeds the
current indisputable ecological and energy crisis. This crisis cannot
be 'solved' through technological answers* such as transgenic seeds
being offered as a solution to "hunger" while the real intention is the
control of agricultural production, the imposition of intellectual
property rights, and the commodification of life and Nature.
Agrofuels, promoted to solve an energy crisis, is a false solution to
climate change, which demands the perpetuation of the structural
problems generated by urban conglomerates, supplied by goods transported
from different places around the planet, and that oblige people and
goods to move increasingly over longer distances feeding off a never
ending demand of energy.
Nor can solutions come from market instruments such as carbon trading,
the sale of environmental services, certification schemes, "sustainable"
round tables, the introduction of "carbon plantations" prescribed by the
Clean Development Mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol, and other such
schemes promoted by *market environmentalism*, which we vehemently oppose.
These false solutions framed in the ideology of "development",
mushroomed after the Second World War as a way to extend colonialism.
Policies institutions and structures were created with reference to this
ideology, which in the name of development, prolonged and diversified
the nature of ransacking of the South. At the end of the 20th century,
development got dressed up in 'Green' and the term "sustainable
development" was created to "sustain" the dominance of the colonial model.
The points set out above represent an attempt to encapsulate the
richness of the debate at our meeting and express the complexity of the
reflections and contributions. We consider these as being
non-negotiable. If you share our vision, we invite you to continue this
1. The geopolitics of agrofuels*
The submission of the local agricultural systems to the industrial
model and to an exogenous energy demand is a political matter, implying
power relations over ecosystems and peoples. This power manifests itself
on two well-defined levels:
First: The current global dependency on fossil fuels is satisfied
through the geopolitics of war*
To guarantee the control over hydrocarbon resources, and now over
agrofuels, the industrialized countries and their transnational
corporations, have developed both economic and financial mechanisms and
political and military ones. In this respect, international commercial
agreements have been designed to allow free access to the resources
through market laws.
These trade agreements, bilateral or multilateral, come hand in hand
with the expansion of infrastructure projects (ducts to transport gas,
oil, minerals and currently agrofuels as ethanol or biodiesel; roads,
hydroways, ports, processing infrastructure, storage and expenditure of
fuels, electrical installations and so forth. The international
financial institutions, through diverse strategies and mechanisms, trick
and condemn countries into a spiral of dependence and death, for example
When a government or the people attempt to break from this dependence,
they risk swift and brutal economic, political or military reprisals.
The geopolitics of oil is designed not only to guarantee access to
hydrocarbons, but also to control its distribution. This explains many
of the armed conflicts in the Middle East, Afghanistan the Caucasus and
Central Asia where the control over hydro-carbon transport routes are
heavily contested by American, European, Russian and Asian companies and
countries that back them.
Just as a new geopolitics was forged to secure access to fossil fuels,
in the same way a new correlation of forces is created around the
agrofuels industry worldwide. The clearest example is the Lula-Bush
alliance (Brazil and The United States) for the creation of a global
market of agroenergy commodities, which is already translated in a
rearrangement of the global balance of power. This is why the recent
announcement by Brazil to restart its nuclear program and the cycle of
uranium enrichment, did not elicit the outcry and condemnation that
countries such as Iran and North Korea have met for using the same
technologies. Brazil is today, part of the circle of friends of the US
and for the time being, beyond political reproach.
Nevertheless, we state categorically and without any ambiguity that
nuclear power is unacceptable --this position is non-negotiable-no
matter the pretext that nuclear energy may be promoted. *Humanity and
the environment have already experienced enough destruction and
suffering from its consequences.
Second: The geopolitics of agrofuels compels a global territorial
In the first instance, this reorganization entails the colonization of
territories used for food crops, to produce energy commodities, and with
it will come the obvious price competition with food (the Mexican maize
case in early 2007 is a clear example), setting off a chain reaction on
the whole economy.
On a wider level and related to the use of so-called 'second generation'
agrofuels from non-food species (such as eucalyptus, /switch grass/,
/Miscanthus/, among others), this rearrangement will result in the
occupation of land on an exponentially increasing scale. Thus, to
"replace" fossil fuels with agrofuels, will impact more seriously on
rural populations, generating strong rural to urban migratory flows.
This pressure on land will be deepened as a result of the mantra that
agrofuels will be grown on so called "marginal lands" or "arid land".
These lands are amongst those that has been left out of the agro-
industrial scheme and feed most of the poor and peasant populations and
indigenous peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America, who live in non-
commercial cultures. It's on these "marginal lands" that millions of
hectares of Jatropha are intended to be introduced, plantation style in
arid regions of India, the Sahel and West Africa.
To summarise, the reproduction of capitalism in a society in-transition
to a post- petroleum era depends on the incorporation and control, even
by military means, of gigantic areas of territory. So, the axes of
resistance are to ensure the integrity of sovereignty over land,
guaranteeing access to local food and energy: _strengthening energy and
food sovereignty and redefining political sovereignty.
1. *The large agrofuel routes*
Currently, we have identified three gargantuan critical 'routes' to
facilitate the uptake of agrofuels in the South:
a. The ethanol alliance. *Brazil, the United States, and the Central
The strategic and media alliance between Lula and Bush: As heads of the
two world leading countries in ethanol production (sugar cane and
maize), have a clear and common objective: to define a new geopolitics
for Latin America (oil vs. agrofuels) through the creation of an
international market for agro energy commodities, culminating in the
"International Conference on Biofuels", supported by UN, set to take
place in Brazil in July 2008.
In this context Brazil has as a "country project" -- meaning, "political
project" -- to emerge as the principal supplier of agrofuels and ethanol
technology. In this way, President Lula presents himself as a new global
leader, and Brazil as the Southern power. To this extent, Brazil has
also established strategic ethanol alliances with India, China and South
Africa, etc. (through these countries' membership to the International
Biofuels Forum), in part to bolster support of the ethanol plan and to
help Brazil have access to the UN Security Council. On the economic
front, Brazil's interest is to access the USA and European market
through tariff advantages held by the Central American and Caribbean
countries. In this way, it intends to expand the production of sugar
cane and African palm, and processing plants in those countries.
Brazil's National Agroenergy Plan considers the potential expansion of
energy crops by an astonishing 200 million hectares, including the
"recovery of degraded areas, conversion of pastures and 'reforestation'
of the Amazonia with palm". To set this plan in motion, an extensive new
network of alcohol-ducts, storing facilities, ports, routes and
hydroways has to be built. This will increase the use of steel coming
from the mines of Gran Carajás, the destruction of natural ecosystems
and social web on this region of the Amazonia, together with the
dramatic increase of cement and concrete production, one of the most
energy consuming industries.
b. From the world's barn to global refinery. *Transgenic soya in
Argentina and the South Cone.
The transformation of the landscape of Argentina's countryside into 17
million hectares of transgenic Soya monocultures only took 10 years. The
production of cereals, meat and other food were replaced in one foul
swoop for just one commodity grown for the purposes of exportation,
concentrated in the hands of the most powerful international
transnational companies. As the world's largest exporter of vegetable
oil, Argentina looks forward to becoming the main supplier for Europe's
demand for biodiesel. Anticipating a windfall, Argentina, has already
asked for preferential tariffs from the EU.
Agribusiness is counting on the exportation of agrofuels and has put in
gear a chain of biodiesel production, in association with Argentine big
capital such as Vicentín, AGD-Bunge S.A y SACEIF - Louis Dreyfus. This
group also includes the big players from the petroleum sector such as
Repsol-YPF y the national ENARSA who are participating in agrofuels
projects worth 25 to 30 million dollars.
In order to respond to the grain and non- fuel oil demand, and now the
Soya biodiesel demand, 4 to 7 million hectares of forests will have to
be cut down and destroyed. In addition, 3 to 4 million tons of Soya,
will have to be imported from Bolivia, Brazil and especially Paraguay.
To this end, the construction of the hydroway between Paraná-Paraguay
has been accelerated in order to drain away the commodities produced in
the interior lands to the Rosario port (and refining zone), as captured
in the project 'Initiative for the Integration of the South American
Infrastructure' (IIRSA). IIRSA envisions the construction of routes,
hydroways, and hydroelectric dams with significant investments from the
private sector for the agro and resource extraction industries.
This is the vertebral column that secures the political and territorial
project of agribusiness in the South cone for the expansion of
production and movement of commodities for export to the North,
consolidated by agrofuels.
c. The sad history of palm oil. Palm plantations in natural ecosystems
and indigenous territories
At the moment, 88 % of the world trade of oil of palm comes from
Malaysia and Indonesia. In the last 20 years the production doubled in
Malaysia and trebled in Indonesia, resulting in the disappearance of
their tropical forests.
In Malaysia, despite the official defence by its oil palm industry and
government that no tropical rainforests have been cleared to plant oil
palm in the last 10 years, as early as December 2004, the State
Government of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo was already revealing that
some 2.4 million hectares had been licensed out for plantations for both
oil palm and pulp and paper. This figure may have climbed to over 3
million by 2007, totalling around a quarter of total land area of
Sarawak. The plantation industry in Sarawak often belongs to the
transnational timber companies, which after having deforested their
concessions for wood extraction will now transform the zone into palm
Though indigenous communities, as part of their traditional territories,
claim these forests, neither the legislation nor the government has
recognized completely their customary rights, in spite of e continuous
protests by indigenous communities. Because of this, it will be very
difficult to stop the aggressive expansion of the energy plantations in
the territories of indigenous communities, many of which depend on the
resources of the forest for their subsistence.
The oil of palm is outlined as the primary source for the production of
biodiesel at the cost of natural ecosystems and indigenous territories
also in several other tropical countries in Asia, Africa and Latin
America, with Colombia being the most disturbing case, as plantationsof
palm are captured by paramilitarism and displacing entire
populations. The expansion of palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia
and other tropical countries around the world, respond to the increasing
demand for palm oil, especially for the European market where new target
for agrofuels has being imposed.
d. Africa and agrofuels: in the wake of more destruction?
There are a colossal number of players involved in the promotion of
agrofuels in Africa. From these, Brazil the oil companies and carbon
traders stand out as being the most strategic-and the most rapacious.
Brazil has swooped on the African continent as an important pawn towards
its global ambitions to create a global market for ethanol. Brazil is
successfully garnering support through bilateral and trilateral
cooperation agreements with a number of African countries such as
Senegal and Benin. Brazil has targeted the African Union, flanked by
several UN agencies, to ensure regional buy in for the roll out of
harmonised legal and economic instruments to sustain a viable biofuels
market. Through the International Biofuels Forum, Brazil with its
partners, China, India, South Africa, the US and the European Commission
will aggressively promote an international market for biofuels and will
force down the throats of the rest of the world, international standards
to ensure that ethanol is turned into an internationally tradable
Several oil companies such as BP, D1 Oils and Petrobras are involved in
biofuels projects in Africa, aimed indiscriminately at oil producing and
non-oil producing countries alike-from tiny Swaziland to oil rich
Nigeria. These predatory oil companies will support any venture-at any
social and environmental cost-as long as it contributes to its global
strategy to delay the oil peak. Interest is also being shown in
countries like Ghana, to link large-scale plantations of /Jatropha/ with
the carbon-trading regime of the Kyoto Protocol.
The political stage is thus being set in Africa, for the roll out
eventually, of grand schemes of large agro fuel production. Mozambique
is set to take the lead in Southern Africa. Through its Mozambique
Petroleum Company, it hopes to invest $55 million in a sugarcane and
/Jatropha/ agro fuels project for the purposes of supplying the regional
and international markets with ethanol and biodiesel.
Declaration on behalf of De-developmentism
The path we propose from the South
Agrofuels and the generation of energy through biomass as a whole*, that
has been promoted by governments, corporations, development agencies,
the United Nations, the financial international institutions and other
agents interested in their production and their international trade --
*does not change, but perpetuate the model of production and consumption
of the modern, urban and industrial civilization *that has led to
inequality in the world, wars, poverty, and environmental destruction.
The ending of the petroleum civilization and the reproduction of capitalism.
The *reproduction* of the current western pillaging civilization, whose
doctrine is globalized neoliberalism, has fossil hydrocarbons as its
All the driving forces behind the production, trafficking and global
marketing of commodities depend on hydrocarbons: the oil industry, the
agro food industry, the pharmaceutical companies, of textile fibres, the
industries involved in the production of detergents, cosmetics, and
explosives, celluloid, plastic in general, construction materials,
packaging, domestic appliances, etc. In the same way, the global
transport of peoples and goods , the mobility and speed in which workers
and products move around, and are exchanged about the globe also depend
on fossil fuels. Now, because automobiles, urban areas are being
designed, with construction and expansion of the megalopolis and the
occupation or urban space and territories.
In the current paradigm of "growth" oriented towards the integration of
the market and global trade, agrofuels are upheld as gradual substitutes
for oil to support environmentally unsustainable patterns of production
and consumption in the North. The way of life promoted by the North and
the elites of the South, best expressed in the so-called "American way
of life " must be transformed. The United States together with
Occidental Europe, to whom today China and the minority elites of the
South are added, are the main consumers of energy. China, the great
factory of the world, reproduces the model of production and consumption
/created by the North/ so that it supplies the global market with
everything while the North and South consumes. We understand that the
model of growth of China is not a model for or of, the South.*
The demand for energy and commodities to supply and maintain the life
style of the societies in the North*, translated daily in food,
wardrobe, heating, housing and transport, pigeonholes the universal
ideal way of life, wellbeing and "progress" aggressively promoted
through globalization as a universal standard for humanity.
The materiality of everything that is part of the daily life of the
"developed" countries depends entirely on an energy and ecological
irrational demand, historically built through the constant plunder of
the nature and knowledge of the peoples of the South.
For the South this "petroleum" model perpetuates the unequal exchange,
technological dependence, indebtedness, impoverishment of peoples and
dispossession of their territory and their sacred spaces. We have
experienced, from the South, that this way of life that a minority of
the planet enjoys, is maintained by the continued exploitation of nature
and human labour in order to feed the flow of commodities and services
that have historically caused the climatic changes, global warming and
the colonial domination of the North over the South.
*The underlying logic of agrofuels as gradual substitutes
for oil is to support the global circulation of commodities and the
environmentally unsustainable demand of energy and resources. This is
done to supply and promote as universally ideal, the lifestyle of the
North steeped in the historical logic of colonial exploitation of
ecosystems and peoples of the South.
*Our answer to the deceit of the so called positive energy balance of
agrofuels* is to point to the undeniable history of ecological and
social devastation wrought bythe fossil fuel- dependent Green Revolution
and concomitantly, industrial agriculture. This has caused the loss of
75 % of biodiversity throughout the last century, according to Food and
Agriculture Organisation (FAO), besides having promoted the destruction
of local agriculture and markets through the imposition of a global
agro- food regime controlled by agribusiness. Indeed, the corporations
that control the industrial chain boasts the highest concentration of
power in the world*.
* We understand that the only way of overcoming the climatic and energy
crises that threatens the continuity of the Life of the planet is the
A transition is needed towards a post-petroleum society and a new sense
of "development" built within a framework that is designed to overcome
capitalism on ecological bases.
Energy issues and food production are the concrete and indivisible axes
of resistance for the construction of another societal project and the
building of new relations between peoples, co-existing as one with
nature, - in order to subvert the colonial logic and subordination
inherent in capitalism.
We agree that the political logic of the new global society in this path
of transition - and the strategy of autonomy of the peoples over their
territories - will have to be oriented by the central premise of
guaranteeing Energy Sovereignty in harmony and complementing the
radical defence of Food Sovereignty.
Therefore, the only consistent debate on agrofuels must be framed in a
*new paradigm of de-development* that includes a radical structural
transformation of the whole global economy and of our way of life and
dismantling *of the macro energy system *that sustains and
guarantees the current global power relations.
These are axes of de-development:
De-urbanize, to restitute populations in a human scale,
supplying their needs in the local market with local energy and
De-globalize trade and transport of goods, particularly
agricultural resources and food, to attack the main demand on
liquid fuels: the refrigerated trucks that transport the meat and
milk chain, the planes that transport flowers and tropical fruit,
the gigantic cereal ships powered on diesel to take Soya to China
and the EU, etc.; that generate a flagrant negative energy
balance, and that sustains the illusory notion of "growth"
De-technologize food production, replacing current agribusiness,
Green Revolution and Genetically Engineered food production
systems with those modelled on an agroecological model inherent
in the food sovereignty proposal based on biodiversity and soil
nutrition, and indigenous knowledge.
De-petrolize economy; the best policy against global warming is
the elimination of fossil fuels, leaving oil, gas and coalunderground-where
they belong. This must not be confused with
fictional solutions as a "decarbonized economy", meaning to
promote the carbon market, clean development mechanisms and the
Joint Implementation that perpetuate the destructive petroleum
model in the context of the logic of a free market.
De-centralize the generation and distribution of energy through
technologies that will not reproduce dependency and will
guarantee supply to local populations of their needs, that is
distinct from privatisation of energy window dressed as
"providing energy access to the poor". In other words, recuperate
and defend the principle of energy as a service and not a business
and commodity offered for sale in the marketplace.
This context that Energy Sovereignty must be guaranteed.
We are attempting to open this debate in the heart of the "left wing"
sectors in our different regions of the globe, restating in these
radical terms this offer to overcome capitalism at this historical moment.
Because of the strategic role of the Latin-American region in the
promotion and installation of the global model of Agro energy, and
bearing in mind the Biofuel's International Conference, supported by the
UN set to take place in Brazil in July 2008, we reaffirm our task of
promoting the "Socialism of the 21st century"
In order for this vision to be a part of a political program of the post
petroleum era, we, the undersigned commit ourselves to reframe our
positions -- without any concessions to capital -- as imposed by the
current energy and ecological crisis.