JATROPHA: Ten Questions to the Board of Bayer AG
on the occasion of the General Assembly of Shareholders, April 25, 2008
by Susanne Gura on behalf of German NGO Forum Environment and Development
According to the Annual Report 2007, p 5, Bayer CropSciences business was stimulated by the rising prices for agricultural products and the increased production of agrofuels, apart from improved market frame conditions in Latin America.
Around the globe there is unrest in many countries due to increased food prices. Especially in those countries where more than 80 percent of income is spent on food – in comparison, the average German spends 12% of their income on food. Agrofuels are competing with food for land and water.
The Bayer AG is currently investing in a plant named Jatropha, a shrub with inedible fruits that so far mainly grows in arid and semi-arid regions. The seed contain more than 30 percent oils, as Bayers Board President Professor Berschauer has said during the annual press conference on 6 September 2007. He explain “Jatropha can be grown in marginal areas in tropical and subtropical regions, that means in areas which are unsuited to food production.
Professor Berschauer is wrong. In India, a government programme aims at replacing some 11 million hectares of communal land with biodiesel plantations. The technology is being provided by BayerCropScience jointly with DaimlerChrysler. The land that is being converted is so-called “wasteland. Wasteland is not an ecological category, but a revenue category introduced under British Rule. It concerns communal lands that are not cultivated with field crops like rice or wheat. However, a large diversity of plants like fruits, nuts, medicinal plants and fodder plants are usually growing on such lands. The Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO since several decades is pointing to the fact that such lands are a very important resource for food and health of the poor segments of the population. Especially those poor segments have hardly any opportunity to benefit from the privatisation of communal land and from growing Jatropha. Jatropha plantations would expel the people from their communally used lands; resulting in more hunger and more poverty.
1. How does Bayer AG ensure that only such lands are cultivated with Jatropha, that are not traditionally used by local communities to feed their livestock and to collect fruit and other items that are crucial for their health and nutrition?
In the Indian State of Chhattisgarh, the most advanced with regard to Jatropha, 200,000 hectares of land were promised to companies, and appropriations are ongoing. Already in 2006, 30 farmers had lost their lives in the land fights. The Right Livelihood Awardee Vandana Shiva reported in December 2007, that smallholders had to convert their paddy land to Jatropha; they were threatened with jail. From Patnagar, sales of fertile lands to companies for Jatropha cultivation were reported.
2. How does Bayer AG plan to impede any further expulsion of local communities from their communal lands?
3. How does Bayer AG plan to impede that fertile land is diverted from food production to Jatropha production?
Competition with water would be increased by Jatropha cultivation, because when watered, the crops deliver much higher yields than without water.
4. How does Bayer AG plan to prevent that Jatropha is cultivated on irrigated land?
5. 5. Does BayerCropScience expect that by breeding Jatropha for higher yield, its requirement for water, as well as for fertilizer and pesticides will increase?
Already, now, Jatropha cultivation is done under contract, so that the companies secure the supply. The farmers are not allowed to chose the buyer and benefit from increasing prices.
6. How does Bayer AG plan to prevent that by contract the farmers are not allowed to chose the buyer of the produce and benefit from increasing prices?
Already, the banks in India provide credits to the processors of agrofuels so that farmers receive credits in connection with the contract. Such arrangements have caused indebtedness of smallholders during the Green Revolution as well as during the Livestock Revolution.
7. How does Bayer AG plan to ensure that large numbers of Jatropha farmers are able to repay the credit after each harvest and dont fall into the debt trap?
Beginning 2008, BayerAG has declared in the media to develop pesticides for Jatropha even if this plant is known to be hardy and not susceptible to pests. Even genetic modification for resistance to Bayers herbicides is foreseen, to promote use of these herbicides that kill all plants except the GMO herbicide resistant Jatropha.
8. Does BayerCropScience expect that with breeding for higher yields, Jatropha will lose its natural resistance for pests?
The business goal of BayerAG to develop herbicide resistant JAtropha does not correspond to the findings of leading agricultural scientists and development policymakers. In April 2008, the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development has demanded a radical reform of agriculture. The soils are damaged and even degraded by agro-chemicals all over the world, and this is a main reason for a constant decrease of yields of major crops since many years. The recommendations made by the 400 scientists are pushing to apply organic farming methods. They could ensure the worlds food supply in a sustainable way, especially if consumption of livestock products based on concentrate feed is set to a reasonable level. Health, climate, animal protection, and the environment would benefit in a large way. BayerCropScience is participating in a decisive way with its pesticides in the unsustainable production of soybean for concentrate feed.
9. How will the Bayer AG reorient its future business to comply with these recommendations and to respond to the expected regulatory risk, and develop organic methods instead of the unsustainable petrochemical-based methods?
The Annual Report is announcing on p 93, that BayerCropScience will further develop its engagement in the seed and plant biotechnology business to increase turnover to a billion within the coming ten years. This objective, again, foreshadows new regulatory risks, because it is not in harmony with the mentioned recommendations. These demands were received around the world with much discussion as well as relief. The 400 scientists spells out what has been known since long: Biotechnology and patenting of seeds can impede rural development in poor countries, because farmers become dependent of corporations. The recommendations were endorsed by 54 governments.
10. How does BayerAG plan to revise its business goals in view of the changed situation and expected regulatory risks?
Press Release for UN-Day on Combating Desertification (17 June, 2008)
Bio-fuels in Drylands: A threat to the Livelihoods of Pastoralists
//On the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification that is celebrated on June 17th every year, organisations representing or supporting traditional mobile livestock keepers caution that the livelihoods of millions of dryland dwellers could be threatened by indiscriminate conversion of so-called “wastelands into bio-fuel plantations. //
Some 193 nations have signed the UN Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD), committing themselves to supporting sustainable land use in drylands and providing its inhabitants with adequate livelihoods.1 However, plans to utilize drylands for the large-scale cultivation of bio-fuel, such as Jatropha (Jatropha curcas),are likely to undermine this pledge.
Promoters of Jatropha maintain that producing this plant does not compete with food production, since it grows only in areas which are not suited for the cultivation of food crops.2,3
But such statements totally ignore the fact that these very “wastelands form the main resource base for mobile livestock keepers (pastoralists) whose herds convert the natural and drought- adapted vegetation of drylands into food, energy, and manure. Ilse Köhler-Rollefson from the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development (LPP), emphasizes “Pastoralism provides livelihoods for over a hundred million poor people and has the added advantage of conserving biological diversity. This is also asserted in a statement issued by the representatives of pastoralist communities and their supporters during the recently concluded 9th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).4
The expressed intention of a country such as India to deploy 11 million hectares of its wastelands for cultivating Jatropha, alarms the sizeable pastoralist communities in the arid western parts of the country. Hanwant Singh Rathore, Director of Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan (LPPS), points out that this move contradicts Indias recently sanctioned Policy for Farmers which places emphasis on increasing and improving access to common property resources, including “wastelands 5 Bagdi Ram Raika, president of the Rajasthan Chervaha Vikas Sanghathan (Rajasthan Pastoralist Development Association) also elaborates that pastoralists make their own contribution to the energy crisis by producing draft animals such as camels and oxen. “Prices of camels have risen substantially since accelerating fuel rates make it too costly for many farmers to cultivate their fields with tractors. This development is strengthening the livelihoods of pastoralists.6
Promoters of bio-fuels believe that Jatropha will gain acceptance if it can be developed or processed into animal feed. Bayer CropScience, Daimler and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote research on Jatropha.7 They hope to repeat the “success story of soy-bean which initially also contained toxic ingredients but now is a main ingredient in processed animal feed.
However, this may take some time. Currently Jatropha is toxic for livestock as Maassai pastoralists in Ngorongoro, Tanzania, found, out when they agreed to collaborate on growing Jatropha on their lands to produce fuel for local use. “Jatropha is a threat to mobile pastoralism as it is poisonous for livestock and destroys livelihoods and culture Says Mosses Ndiyaine, Executive Director for the Indigenous Heartland Organization (IHO).
The pastoralists now seek to cancel their contract, remarking that they themselves have little need for bio-fuel, whereas livestock is all important.
Civil Society Organisations hope that a currently pending EU Bio-fuel Directive aimed at introducing environmental criteria for the production of bio-fuel will be expanded by social criteria. According to Silke Brehm, Science and Technology Officer of Drynet, an alliance of 14 NGOs, working towards greater Civil Society involvement in the implementation of the UN Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD) “ If bio-fuels can only be sourced from private land, then the danger for pastoralists to be evicted from their traditional grazing grounds will be reduced.
Drylands are sensitive eco-systems that need to be handled with care and introducing mono-cultures to replace the bio-diverse native vegetation could have many negative consequences. Civil Society hopes that the International Day of Combating Desertification will remind nations of their responsibilities to manage drylands sustainable and to the benefit of its local populations.
For further information and interview opportunities contact:
Dr. Ilse Köhler-Rollefson
Project Coordinator, League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development, Pragelatostr. 20, 64372 Ober-Ramstadt, Germany.
Tel.+49-6154-53642. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Website www.pastoralpeoples.org
Hanwant Singh, Director, Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan, P.O. Box 1, Sadri, Rajasthan (India). Tel. +91-9414818564. E-mail email@example.com. www.lpps.org
Executive Director, Indigenous Heartland Organization (IHO), P.O BOX 14995, Arusha,Tanzania
Tel/Fax +255 (0) 27 250 5532, Mobile +255 (0)786 662 525, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, Website. www.indigenousheartland.org
Science and Technology Officer, Drynet, Chaussée de Waterloo 1313D, 1180 Brussels, Belgium.
Tel. +32-23723555. E-mail email@example.com, www.dry-net.org