Friends of the Earth International

Rapid expansion in the use of agricultural crops as a transport fuel has been justified in Northern countries as a pro- development policy that will help bring developing countries out of poverty. The agrofuels boom, it is said, will increase agricultural production, generate foreign revenues through export, make countries less dependent on imports of fossil fuels, and drive much needed new investments in agriculture and rural communities. No other region has embraced this idea as much as Latin America, where countries have started expanding agriculture production and putting in place the infrastructure necessary to access and supply the European and US markets. Brazil has become one of the most vocal promoters of agrofuels. In order to deflect criticisms, these countries assure the North that there is enough land available for increased production, that the local population is actually benefiting and that the crops are being grown in a sustainable way.

The crucial issue is whether these claims are correct and justified. Do the majority of farmers and peasants in these countries find themselves being assisted out of poverty and does the production of soy, sugarcane and palm oil increase employment? Are the crops really being grown sustainably and does the production of agrofuels indeed not compete with food supplies? Who really benefits from these developments? Who will be the real winners and who will be the unfortunate losers? This report looks into these questions and issues for a number of Latin American countries namely Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia and the Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala. It reports on the social, environmental and human rights impacts of the current agrofuel developments. It also looks into the role of European and international companies and investors and the influence of the agrofuel business over national agriculture and energy policies of the respective governments. The report is written by authors living and working in countries where these developments are unfolding.

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