[For further information on the FAO Biotechnology Forum see the Forum website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]
Sent: 13 December 2008 16:17
Subject: 80: Re: Thermo-chemical vs. biochemical conversion of LC biomass
This is Uwe Bruenjes, from Mexico, again.
As a general guideline, I would say it's not so much about what perceivably could be done, but what is the best solution or at least sensible. I am aware that biogas can be liquified, that it can be distributed via buried pipes, that genetical engineering can be helpful, etc. But that's not the point. The point is, does it make sense from an economical and other points of view?
Point One: Biofuel should always come from agricultural residue, to avoid "competition" with food crops (even it is only for space).
Point Two: The conversion process should be simple, fast and easy. Anything else translates at least into higher costs, and possibly huge space requirements.
Point Three: The obtained biofuel should be of relatively high molecular weight - the higher, the better! A fuel that under normal atmospheric conditions doesn't burn (or hardly) is much safer than, for example, methane gas. Perhaps new motors and engines would have to be designed (in fact, they already exist in labs), but if that is part of what we need to solve our environmental problems, let's go for it.
Point Four: Economy rules! Any sophisticated technical solution that comes expensive as long as it is applied, doesn't fulfill our needs and therefore won't last long. As I said above, it has to be simple, fast and easy (to apply).
In my opinion, what has been proposed so far (biodiesel from jathropha, methane gas from manure, etc.) doesn't comply with the demands real life puts on us. Back to the drawing board! What is more, I feel like this discussion should be permanent, because every new proposal requires time to "consult the pillow" and reflect over it. Knee-jerk solutions won't benefit anybody in the long run. We have to establish a set of rules according to which each proposal shouild be evaluated, and only then can we develop a real solution. Though as I hinted before, this solution might be more chemical than biochemical, and in this case we would have to take a second place, providing the chemists with the best input for their process.
Calle Plan de Guadalupe #4025
Col. Los Nogales
Cd. Juarez, Chih. 32350
ubrunjes (at) yahoo.com
Sent: 13 December 2008 16:33
Subject: 81: GE trees for bioenergy: contamination risk
This is from Dr. Rachel Smolker, Ph.D. from the Global Justice Ecology Project, Global Forest Coalition and the Stop GE Trees Campaign. My background is in ecology and wildlife biology and more recently as an activist monitoring the development of biofuels industries, and their impacts on land use, peoples, biodiversity and climate.
Wood is considered one of the "best" feedstocks for biofuels. It is inedible, hence, it is claimed, will alleviate competition with food production, and is readily available. Trees contain massive quantities of biomass and can be harvested year round. Fast growing species like eucalyptus and poplar can be grown in a wide range of circumstances. There is a very rapid increase in demand for wood by the pulp industry, by utilities switching from fossil fuels to biomass for electricity production, for residential and industrial heat, for conversion to liquid transport fuels and for chemicals and materials production and processing.
Meeting this demand is likely to have dire consequences for forests, even as reducing emissions from deforestation is simultaneously taking center stage in negotiations on climate change mitigation. Companies such as Arborgen and Aracruz Cellulose argue that this enormous demand will be met "sustainably" by "increasing productivity and suitability" of trees by means of genetic engineering.
The genetic manipulation of trees has been underway for some time, first in pursuit of developments on behalf of the pulp industry and now also for bioenergy. Trees have been engineered for a variety of characteristics, including: reduced lignin content, pest and disease resistance, herbicide tolerance, fast growth, cold, drought and other stress tolerance, phytoremediation characteristics and others.
However, the contamination risks inherent to widescale release of genetically engineered (GE) trees are of critical concern. The record on contamination involving annual food crops has been dismal (see, for example, the Greenpeace GM Contamination Register), providing little basis for confidence that it is feasible to contain and control contamination. Trees are even more vulnerable as they are long-lived perennials that distribute pollen and seeds over hundreds and even thousands of kilometers. Contamination of native forest species is virtually guaranteed, and once it occurs will be irreversible. Following widespread planting of GE poplars in China, native poplars are already becoming contaminated.
An alliance of civil society groups and NGOs has undertaken an ongoing campaign to prevent the release of GE trees. This alliance involves 146 organizations and has sought a ban on commercial release of GE trees by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In 2008, the CBD made a final decision not to adopt the ban. This was made in spite of tremendous support for the ban from the African Group delegates and many others as well as endorsement for the ban from hundreds of organizations representing many millions of people worldwide. The CBD decision to oppose a ban on GE trees was influenced by those signatory countries most heavily invested in GE tree research already, namely Canada, New Zealand and Brazil (who placed a representative of the leading GE tree company, Arborgen, on their delegation). Opposition to GE trees nonetheless continues to strengthen, particularly in light of many new studies indicating the critical role of healthy and intact forest ecosystems to climate regulation.
GE trees are intended to be grown in monoculture plantations. Monoculture tree plantations are a major problem in regions where they are cultivated as they displace local populations and alternative land uses (including food production), deplete soils and waterways, provide little habitat for biodiversity, offer few employment opportunities, and have serious impacts on women (as documented by the World Rainforest Movement [www.wrm.org.uy]). The replacement of native forests by monoculture tree plantations is a major cause of deforestation, and yet, because the UN FAO insists on including plantations within its definition of "forests", this trend continues unrecognized and unchecked. The genetic manipulation of eucalyptus for cold tolerance, in particular, threatens to extend the range in which eucalyptus can grow, which in turn threatens even more communities and forests around the world with the same devastating impacts that have been documented where eucalyptus plantations already have been established.
The UN must reconstruct the definition of forest to exclude monoculture tree plantations, and must adopt measures based on the precautionary principle, to prevent GE contamination of native forests by adopting a global ban on the planting of GE trees. For a detailed review of the status of GE tree research and risks of contamination, as well as discussion of other fundamental issues pertaining to the development of biofuels and forests, please see "The Real Cost of Agrofuels: Food, Forests, Peoples and the Climate" (http://www.globalforestcoalition.org/img/userpics/File/publications/Truecostagrofuels.pdf).
Finally, while our moderator has repeatedly attempted to steer the discussion towards the core topic of biotechnology applications for bioenergy, a request I have attempted to respect for the bulk of this posting, it is essential that the questions regarding food-fuel competition, allocations of land, water, soil and fertilizer resources, indirect impacts and impacts of intellectual property rights (IPRs) etc. be addressed first. It is likely that a full assessment would determine that moneys and resources now going into biotechnology developments for bioenergy could be put to better use elsewhere. The entire enterprise must prioritize the welfare of local communities and intact ecosystems rather than servicing large-scale export-oriented corporate agribusiness.
Global Justice Ecology Project
Global Forest Coalition
PO Box 412
office: (802) 482 2689
mobile: (802) 735-7794
e-mail: rsmolker (at) globaljusticeecology.org
[Although peripheral to this e-mail conference on biotechnologies for bioenergy production, the issue of biofuels and water is important and was mentioned in some messages at the beginnning of the conference as well as in the last paragraph here. On this subject, I noted that at the end of this November, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), one of the 15 research centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), released a 4-page IWMI Water Policy Brief entitled "Water implications of biofuel crops: understanding tradeoffs and identifying options" - see http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/Publications/Water_Policy_Briefs/PDF/WPB30.pdf or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information...Moderator].
Sent: 13 December 2008 16:42
Subject: 82: Re: Biogas production - potential, large plants, education program
This is John Atoyebi, once again, from Nigeria, responding to message 67 by Emma Kreuger:
Sincerely, most interventions as it concerns developing countries are in the area of awareness, education and training about this subject, especially the utilisation of our plants for energy generation. I do not wholly agree that we (developing countries) should forget about genetic engineering for now as discussed in message 67, but rather developing countries must need to be carried along on all issues with respect to the bioenergy topic (germplasm exchange, training, technology adoption) and thats why instead of playing a passive role, we (developing countries) must be encouraged by the developed world to play an active role.
For example, if a developing country claims not to be involved in a GM product, simply because she does not produce such, will she not be having germplasm exchange, regulation, biosafety etc. How then will such be able to identify a GM product if to be taken across her frontiers.
I strongly believe that it is developing countries that need energy intervention most, due to a shortfall in energy production and generation such as gas, biodiesel, among the developing countries.
National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, P.M.B 5382,
Ibadan, Oyo State,
Tel office 00234-2-2312622
Tel mobile 00234-8033824752
johnyinka (at) yahoo.fr