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Brazil on the Benefits of Biofuels

As food prices continue to rise, various theories have emerged as to the underlying forces driving prices higher. BBC News reported today on the growing debate about the role biofuels might play, and highlighted a vigorous rebuttal from the President of Brazil.

Brazil, in particular finds itself defending the biofuels industry at a conference of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Brasilia. Both Brazil and the U.S. are heavily invested in the production of corn and sugar-cane-based fuels, with Brazil being the world’s largest exporter. BBC News reported Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s comments:

“Biofuels aren’t the villain that threatens food security,” said President Lula.

“On the contrary… they can pull countries out of energy dependency without affecting foods.”

He said that rises in food prices came because people in developing countries like China, India and Brazil itself are eating higher up the food chain–shifting from grain to meat–as economic conditions in those countries improved.

An interesting argument. Could there be a connection between rising obesity levels and rising food prices? It’s something to think about, and it’s another reason to follow through with that diet you’ve been thinking of doing. We already know that our food consumption habits affect far more than our dating prospects.

So Brazil says it’s simply a supply and demand situation, others note that agriculture is highly dependent on petroleum and that skyrocketing oil prices are a primary cause of food price increase. And as I continue to read these kinds of stories, as well as OECD reports that weigh the pros and cons of biofuels, it is apparent that there is no single cause or villain, and that we haven’t seen the last of the debate.

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Brazil on the Benefits of Biofuels

As food prices continue to rise, various theories have emerged as to the underlying forces driving prices higher. BBC News reported today on the growing debate about the role biofuels might play, and highlighted a vigorous rebuttal from the President of Brazil.

Brazil, in particular finds itself defending the biofuels industry at a conference of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Brasilia. Both Brazil and the U.S. are heavily invested in the production of corn and sugar-cane-based fuels, with Brazil being the world’s largest exporter. BBC News reported Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s comments:

“Biofuels aren’t the villain that threatens food security,” said President Lula.

“On the contrary… they can pull countries out of energy dependency without affecting foods.”

He said that rises in food prices came because people in developing countries like China, India and Brazil itself are eating higher up the food chain–shifting from grain to meat–as economic conditions in those countries improved.

An interesting argument. Could there be a connection between rising obesity levels and rising food prices? It’s something to think about, and it’s another reason to follow through with that diet you’ve been thinking of doing. We already know that our food consumption habits affect far more than our dating prospects.

So Brazil says it’s simply a supply and demand situation, others note that agriculture is highly dependent on petroleum and that skyrocketing oil prices are a primary cause of food price increase. And as I continue to read these kinds of stories, as well as OECD reports that weigh the pros and cons of biofuels, it is apparent that there is no single cause or villain, and that we haven’t seen the last of the debate.

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Will We Be Fooled Again?

An unnamed American official is non-too-pleased with the Bush administration’s moves to normalize relations with Sudan, and so leaks to Helen Cooper documents detailing the entente. The United States, reports Cooper, is offering to take Sudan off the list of state sponsors of terror and take steps to normalize relations if Sudan agrees to cooperate more fully on the deployment of the peacekeeping mission in Darfur. Why would this official think this is such a bad idea? Roger Winter, a former USAID and State Department official with twenty-years experience in Sudan explains: “Given the fact that Khartoum has been involved in negotiations repeatedly over the years regarding Darfur and the comprehensive peace agreements and has signed documents and consistently failed to implement what they’ve signed, why are we discussing normalization with them?”

I think this is exactly the point. Khartoum has yet to live up to most of the agreements it has signed. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (which ended a 20 year civil war between the Islamist government in the Khartoum and southern rebels) is on the verge of collapse because the government has decided to unilaterally withdraw from some of its key passages, including on the boundary of the oil-rich Abyei region. The Darfur Peace Agreement was basically dead on arrival–and the government (to this day) routinely violates its obligations contained therein. The President of Sudan, Omar el Bashir has also backed down from personal commitments he has made to the Secretary General to desist from the government’s campaign to retard the deployment of UNAMID.

This “is a fool me twice, shame on me” sort of situation. And we’ve been fooled time and time again. As John Prendergast of the Enough Campaign (and formerly of the NSC) likes to point out, Khartoum tends to respond only under pressure or the threat of pressure. For real progress to take hold in Darfur, the United States should work with the international community to press the government of Sudan to comply with the agreements it has already made–not reward a regime that has consistently failed to live up to its past agreements.

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Will We Be Fooled Again?

An unnamed American official is non-too-pleased with the Bush administration’s moves to normalize relations with Sudan, and so leaks to Helen Cooper documents detailing the entente. The United States, reports Cooper, is offering to take Sudan off the list of state sponsors of terror and take steps to normalize relations if Sudan agrees to cooperate more fully on the deployment of the peacekeeping mission in Darfur. Why would this official think this is such a bad idea? Roger Winter, a former USAID and State Department official with twenty-years experience in Sudan explains: “Given the fact that Khartoum has been involved in negotiations repeatedly over the years regarding Darfur and the comprehensive peace agreements and has signed documents and consistently failed to implement what they’ve signed, why are we discussing normalization with them?”

I think this is exactly the point. Khartoum has yet to live up to most of the agreements it has signed. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (which ended a 20 year civil war between the Islamist government in the Khartoum and southern rebels) is on the verge of collapse because the government has decided to unilaterally withdraw from some of its key passages, including on the boundary of the oil-rich Abyei region. The Darfur Peace Agreement was basically dead on arrival–and the government (to this day) routinely violates its obligations contained therein. The President of Sudan, Omar el Bashir has also backed down from personal commitments he has made to the Secretary General to desist from the government’s campaign to retard the deployment of UNAMID.

This “is a fool me twice, shame on me” sort of situation. And we’ve been fooled time and time again. As John Prendergast of the Enough Campaign (and formerly of the NSC) likes to point out, Khartoum tends to respond only under pressure or the threat of pressure. For real progress to take hold in Darfur, the United States should work with the international community to press the government of Sudan to comply with the agreements it has already made–not reward a regime that has consistently failed to live up to its past agreements.

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As Seen in the New York Times

Our sister site, On Day One, made the old gray lady today.

Kitchen Gardeners International, a nonprofit organization [Roger] Doiron founded in 2003, is a virtual community of 5,200 gardeners from 96 countries. “We’re trying to reframe the backyard in terms of global sustainability, without losing any of the fun,” said Mr. Doiron, who manages to make a living from donations to his nonprofit and a fellowship from the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute.

He sees his audience as “people out there who are concerned about peak oil, or the gardening gastronomes who want the freshest food possible,” he said. “Or the people who joined a C.S.A.” — a community-supported agriculture project — “last year, and this year are thinking, you know what? I can do some of this myself.”

Mr. Doiron’s latest cause is challenging the presidential candidates to plant a garden on the White House lawn. He has posted his proposal, “Eat the View,” on www.ondayone.org, a Web site where people record their visions for the next president.”

The article, which appeared in the Home and Garden section today, goes on to discuss the various ways presidents through history have used the White House lawn to grow food and vegetables. Mr. Dorion’s proposal, though, is much more ambitious than what’s been done in the past. Dorion says the next president should transform the White House lawn into a garden large enough to sustain the produce needs of the White House, with the left-over produce going to local food pantries. I like the idea. And kudos to New York Times writer Anne Raver for giving it some play.

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As Seen in the New York Times

Our sister site, On Day One, made the old gray lady today.

Kitchen Gardeners International, a nonprofit organization [Roger] Doiron founded in 2003, is a virtual community of 5,200 gardeners from 96 countries. “We’re trying to reframe the backyard in terms of global sustainability, without losing any of the fun,” said Mr. Doiron, who manages to make a living from donations to his nonprofit and a fellowship from the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute.

He sees his audience as “people out there who are concerned about peak oil, or the gardening gastronomes who want the freshest food possible,” he said. “Or the people who joined a C.S.A.” — a community-supported agriculture project — “last year, and this year are thinking, you know what? I can do some of this myself.”

Mr. Doiron’s latest cause is challenging the presidential candidates to plant a garden on the White House lawn. He has posted his proposal, “Eat the View,” on www.ondayone.org, a Web site where people record their visions for the next president.”

The article, which appeared in the Home and Garden section today, goes on to discuss the various ways presidents through history have used the White House lawn to grow food and vegetables. Mr. Dorion’s proposal, though, is much more ambitious than what’s been done in the past. Dorion says the next president should transform the White House lawn into a garden large enough to sustain the produce needs of the White House, with the left-over produce going to local food pantries. I like the idea. And kudos to New York Times writer Anne Raver for giving it some play.

| Leave a comment

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