“STOP THE BIOFUEL-MADNESS”

Protests against the G8-Summit

In Sapporo globalization critics protest against the G*-summit. They blame the industrial states for the crisis in grain prices. The G8 allegedly plans an emergency reserve in grain

By Felix Lee

[This article published 7/6/2008 in: die tagezeitung is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.taz.de.]


Sapporo. The globalization critics wanted to begin their protest against the G8-summit with a peace march. But current developments caught up with them. “The high oil price and the food crisis threaten the existence of over a hundred million people,” Walden Bello, globalization critic and winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize, told taz. “This cannot be indifferent to us.”

The motto of the protests changed. “No to the Hypocritical Summit that destroys the Global Environment” and “Stop the Biofuel Madness” now appeared on many posters and banners. On Saturday approximately 5000 persons came to Sapporo in North Japan for the prelude demonstration of summit opponents to protest the G8-summit beginning Monday in Japanese Toyako. Representatives of the seven leading industrial states together with Russia are meeting there.

“People in poor countries must starve so the rich can continue driving their cars,” criticized Ryozo Inomata, a Japanese representative of the farmer organization Via Campesina, the international network of small farmers. Farmers were represented in very large numbers at the demonstration.

In his address, Inomata described growing plants for biofuels as “a crime against humanity.” “Hunger revolts” have already occurred in poor countries because acreage is used for biosprit (biofuel) and no longer for rice and wheat. One activist from the Philippines declared: “Everything the G8-heads of state do only makes the problems worse.”

A recent study of the World Bank showed that the use of plants for production of biofuel makes food 76 percent more expensive. The US which already uses a third of its acreage for biofuels makes biofuels responsible for a three percent increase in prices and blames the stronger demand for food from India and China for the higher food prices.

The US government is not the only government under fire. Alexis Passadakis who participates in the protests in Sapporo for the German section of the global justice network Attac, criticized statements by Chancellor Angela Merkel. On Friday she urged containing the current food crisis through greater reliance on genetic engineering. As an example, she named varieties that require little water. “Many experts insist genetically-engineered plants will play an increasingly important role,” Merkel said.

The chancellor instrumentalized the hunger crisis to implement genetic technology in the South in the interest of the mammoth seed conglomerates, Attac activist Passadakis countered. “The chancellor could not have shown more clearly that environmental policy for her is only a means for enforcing the interests of industrial countries and mammoth conglomerates.”

Genetic technology is rejected by many farmer movements of developing countries. Monsanto and BayerCorpSciences would dominate the market for genetically-engineered seed. “With the food crisis, they hear their cash registers ring,” Passadakis charged. Armin Paasch from the human rights organization FIAN urged Merkel to point the way to the future. “The G8 may not recycle the old prescriptions that are responsible for the hunger crisis.”

Merkel promised to stand up for standards in the production of biofuels at the G8-summit. A predatory competition between food- and biofuel cultivation must be prevented, the chancellor said.

According to Japanese newspaper reports, the G8 plans to set aside grain reserves to help poorer states in case of need – and to keep down prices. This instrument is similar to the oil reserves that industrial countries withhold in agreement with the International Energy Agency (IEA).