Philippines is promoting agrofuels as a way to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Thousands of hectares have been set aside in the Palawan Island, a part of UNESCO’s recognised biosphere reserve, for oil palm and jatropha. A project by Agumil Philippines Inc., a joint venture between Filipino and Malaysian investors, has already started cultivating oil palms. The state-owned LandBank is backing it.
Green groups say the project has cleared lowland forests for plantations. It has limited people’s access to natural resources and use of pesticides in the plantations has polluted drinking water. Residents say the plantations have brought a pest which is burrowing into their coconut palms.
In September, Macro- Asia mining corporation and Celestial Nickel Mining Exploration Corporation were allowed to mine lands of Palawan communities. The government did not consult the residents for the mining projects or for oil palm plantations. It has also delayed the implementation of Indigenous People’s Rights Act, which grants identification and recognition to land inhabited and used by tribals.
Smuggling and low remuneration have caused a decline in cocoa production in Africa, hitting the global market. Farmers in Ghana, the world’s second-largest cocoa producer, make less than a dollar a day. Ghana pays a fixed amount to farmers, irrespective of their output.
Since farmers do not have enough incentives to grow cocoa plants, which take five years to mature, they are turning to other commercial crops like rubber. Last year Ghana harvested about 720,000 tonnes of cocoa but lost 100,000 tonnes to smuggling to neighbouring Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest producer of the chocolate ingredient.
In Ivory Coast farmers command better cocoa prices. To curb smuggling, Ghana raised the price it pays to farmers by nine per cent but that has had little effect.
RARE EARTH METALS
China has started exporting rare earth metals to Japan after a two-month suspension due to a diplomatic row. The halt came after Japan’s navy arrested a Chinese fishing boat captain near East China Sea islands, controlled by Japan but claimed by China. The metals are used in missiles and cars. China produces 97 per cent of the world’s rare earths.
The US department of agriculture has allowed planting of genetically modified sugar beets while it completes an environmental impact study of the crop. A federal judge had banned the use of Roundup Ready seeds in August after a lawsuit raised concerns that the seeds would cross pollinate with natural plants.
Fifty per cent of the sugar supply in the US comes from beets—over 95 per cent of the beets are grown using GM seeds.
DEAL RAISES STINK
On the sidelines of the G20 summit in South Korea, leaders of Australia and Russia ratified a nuclear cooperation agreement of 2007 which allows Australian uranium to be enriched in Russia for civil nuclear power purposes.
An Australian parliamentary committee opposed the deal on grounds of safety. Legislators called for the deal to be blocked unless Russia hastened reforms to separate civilian and military nuclear plants. Activists criticised it over concerns that nuclear material sent to Russisa could be diverted for weapons production.
Australian prime minister Julia Gillard said the agreement met all national and international safeguards. Australia’s uranium industry said the decision would open new markets.
GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
UAE, US, WORST POLLUTERS