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The Rural Development Myth [#96]
Large scale monoculture plantations do not bring 'development' and employment to the countryside, but rather expel people from local communities, destroy their local markets and crops, their soil and water.
Despite the fact that rural to urban migration, as a consequence of land conflicts and monoculture expansion, is evident to many working and living in countries in the South, a myth is being upheld that the revenues of export crops will 'trickle down' to society at large. In isolated cases this might happen, but overall this is not the case.
'Paraguay Sojero' demonstrates current land conflicts and agrochemical exposure for the rural population in Paraguay, following the expansion of soy crops. Spraying with Roundup destroys food crops around that people depend on, pollutes water and soil, and makes people sick. Paraguay is a highly corrupt and increasingly repressive society to social movements.

An interesting document is also provided by FBOMS, the umbrella organiation of many Brazilian organisations, 'Agribusiness and biofuels - an explosive mixture'. This document explains that although local biofuel production could potentially contribute to the local economy, the grasp over the expansion of this booming sector is increasingly in the hands of agribusiness, joined by the oil industry. Buying up huge amounts of land is going to be the next mission.

SawitWatch from Indonesia has warned the EU institutions that their planned support for biofuels will pose a major threat to agrarian reform, and say that oil palm plantation expansion should be stopped. They write: "The situation described above has led to extreme concentration of land and natural resources in the hands of only a few business people from the oil palm plantations and palm oil industries. The potential implication of such mutually adopted policy in favour of palm oil expansion is obvious: Millions of hectares of Indonesian lands will be under the absolute control of major oil palm plantation groups and a few conglomerates. It is therefore unavoidable that, as a consequence of Europe's
biofuels policy, the land rights of indigenous peoples and local
communities will be relinquished further, and that food security will be undermined and lands for agricultural purposes and subsistence livelihoods will diminish."

The European Commission is not planning to install any safeguards to prevent socio-economic damage as a consequence of expansion of biofuel production.
posted on 2007-03-05 07:41 UTC by Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory

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  • United Nations Environment Programme