Biofuel Boom: Greenwashing and Crimes Against Humanity (Part II)

biofuelboomindexA two-part series that will critically analyze what is being suggested as the worst public policy mistake in a generation. Aprominent UN representative calls it a “crime against humanity”, and this “crime” may shock even the most environmentally conscious of individuals, because it is in reference to biofuels, a technology that is in the early stages of an unprecedented boom around the world. The green image being painted by industry and world leaders is doing little to convince skeptics that using agricultural land to grow fuel is as environmentally friendly as it is reported to be. Compounding the environmental debate, biofuels are being referred to by some of the world’s most influential international organizations as contributing to increases in global hunger at staggering rates. The money being thrown around the world and being invested into these biofuel technologies is incredible. In July 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised 1.5 billion dollars in incentives to get the Canadian biofuel industry up and running. British Petroleum has controversily invested half a billion dollars into biofuel research at the University of California at Berkeley.

The seriousness of this issue has prompted a careful approach to addressing this topic, and this two-part series has been designed to hopefully be the most critical 2-hours of radio produced to date on this rapid emergence of biofuels around the world.

Part II

On Part II, we examine the accusation that biofuels are a crime against humanity and how the biofuel boom will affect food prices around the world. We deconstruct the suggestion that biofuels will help Canadian farmers and rural communities, and we explore the controversy on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley where on February 1, 2007, a biofuel research deal worth half a billion dollars was announced between BP (British Petroleum) and the University.


Darrin Qualman – Director of ResearchNational Farmers’ Union (NFU) (Saskatoon, SK) – NFU members believe that the problems facing farmers are common problems, and that farmers producing diverse products must work together to advance effective solutions. The NFU works toward the development of economic and social policies that will maintain the family farm as the primary food-producing unit in Canada.

Eric Holt-Gimenez – Executive DirectorFood First (Oakland, CA) – Also known as the Institute for Food and Development Policy, the purpose of Food First is to eliminate the injustices that cause hunger, a purpose they’ve been operating with for over 32 years. The institute was launched by Joseph Collins and Francis Moore Lappe. Lappe is most well known for her book published around that time – Diet for a Small Planet.

Robin Speer – Director of Public AffairsCanadian Renewable Fuels Association (Toronto, ON) – Founded in 1994, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA) mission is to promote the use of renewable fuels for transportation through consumer awareness and government liaison activities. The CRFA membership is comprised of representatives from all levels of the ethanol and biodiesel industry, including: grain and cellulose ethanol producers, biodiesel producers, fuel technology providers, and agricultural associations.

Other Voices

Len Penner – PresidentCargill Canada (Winnipeg, MB) – One of Canada’s largest agricultural merchandisers and processors with interests in meat, egg, malt and oilseed processing, livestock feed, salt manufacturing, as well as crop input products, grain handling and merchandizing. The company is a subsidiary of Cargill Limited based in the United States. In February 2007, Deconstructing Dinner ran a 2-part series on the operations of the company. Len was interviewed and recorded speaking by Host Jon Steinman in September 2007 at the CropLife Canada conference in Saskatoon.

Ignacio Chapela – Associate ProfessorCollege of Natural Resources, University of California – Berkeley (Berkeley, CA) – Working in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, the Chapela Lab focuses its research on the Ecology of Transgenes and Fungal Ecology. Chapela became the centre of controversy in 2000 while examining the native maize population in Oaxaca. One of Chapela’s graduate students, David Quist, made a shocking discovery. Despite a ban imposed by the Mexican government upon genetically-engineered(GE) corn in the birth place of modern maize domestication, there was clear evidence of genetic contamination. Chapela has long been a vocal opponent of genetic modification, which will be one focus of the BP/Berkeley Biofuels research.

Miguel Altieri – ProfessorCollege of Natural Resources, University of California – Berkeley (Berkeley, CA) – Working in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, Miguel’s research group uses the concepts of agroecology to obtain a deep understanding of the nature of agroecosystems and the principles by which they function. Throughout their research and writings they have aided in the emergence of agroecology as the discipline that provides the basic ecological principles for how to study, design, and manage sustainable agroecosystems that are both productive and natural resource conserving, and that are also culturally-sensitive, socially-just and economically viable.

Ali Tonak – PhD StudentCollege of Natural Resources, University of California – Berkeley (Berkeley, CA) – Ali is a student of Igancio Chapela and one of the organizers of the Stop BP-Berkeley Campaign. Ali was arrested on March 1, 2007 during a theatrical protest on the campus.

JoAnne Buth – PresidentCanola Council of Canada (Winnipeg, MB) – A national trade association representing producers, input suppliers, processors and marketers of canola and its products. JoAnne was interviewed and recorded speaking by Host Jon Steinman in September 2007 at the CropLife Canada conference in Saskatoon.

Jean Ziegler – Special Rapporteur on the Right to FoodUnited Nations (Geneva, Switzerland) – In September 2000, Jean Ziegler was nominated by the UN Commission on Human Rights to be the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Ziegler is a senior Professor at the University of Geneva and the University of Sorbonne, Paris. At the University of Geneva, he established the Laboratory of sociology for the study of the societies of the Third World, and most of his work has focused on developing countries.

Arnold Schwarzeneggar – GovernorCalifornia (Sacramento, CA)

Robert Birgeneau – ChancellorUniversity of California – Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)

Robert Malone – Chairman and CEOBP America (Houston, TX)

Musical Selection (name/title/album/label)
Theme/Soundclip – Adham Shaikh, Infusion, Fusion, Sonic Turtle (CDN)