EasterWayne LIBAccording to the Federal Liberals, we should forget the 100 million people worldwide who can’t afford to eat because food is diverted to agrofuel production.  Forget also our polar ice caps which will melt even faster as agrofuels production increases greenhouse gas emissions even more than conventional fuel production.  And forget Canada’s lakes and rivers which will see even more contamination by toxic blue-green algae as a result of the increased fertiliser usage caused by the ethanol boom. The real crux of the issue according to Wayne Easter, Liberal Agriculture Critic, is what will investors think if Canada does not pass Bill C-33?

Bill C-33 will set minimum standards on ethanol and agrodiesel content in fuel. In the House of Commons yesterday, Easter said “If we reject this bill, this will send a very negative message to those investors...  somebody had better take responsibility for that lost investment opportunity and that lost investment for those people who had actually took the word of the various representatives of the parties that this bill would actually go through parliament.”  

Greenpeace has criticized Easter, along with most Liberal MPs and the vast majority of Conservatives, for representing Monsanto and the agribusiness industry over the interests of Canadians and the environment by voting against mandatory labelling for genetically engineered foods earlier this month.  Now comes the clearest statement yet of which interests the Liberals represent.

Of course companies like Suncor, which is investing heavily in Ontario ethanol refineries, and Monsanto, which stands to profit from increases in genetically engineered corn grown to fuel cars and trucks, will be upset if the proposed agrofuel Bill C-33 does not pass.  But Canadians expect Members of Parliament to listen first to their constituents not to corporations.  Corporations must respect legislative sovereignty and know that until democratic debate is completed, the legislation they have been promised is not yet law. 

At one point, all four parties in the House of Commons supported increased use of agrofuels.  Since then, as a result of new scientific evidence, and citizen pressure, both the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have expressed their concerns and introduced or supported significant amendments which would limit their most pernicious effects.  Conservatives and Liberals must both also change their positions.  Third reading on the bill continues this week.  Canadians can tell their MPs they expect them to vote down Bill C-33, putting Canadians and the environment ahead of corporate interests.

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Sample letter

Dear MP,

I am writing to express my opposition to Bill C-33, which by raising the minimum standards for agrofuel content in gasoline and diesel will see more of Canada’s food crops diverted to feeding cars instead of people.  United Nations Special Rapporteur Jean Zeigler has called this practice “a crime against humanity”, as food riots destabilize countries from Haiti to South Africa, and 100 million people fall further into poverty.  Even many low income Canadians must now cut back on other necessities to afford basic bread, pastas and cereals whose prices have doubled in recent months. 

The scientific evidence is clear that most currently developed agrofuels will not reduce greenhouse gases, but actually increase the amount of global warming gases pumped into the atmosphere. Corn ethanol uses large quantities of nitrogen based fertilizers which are among the biggest drivers of global warming.  Agrofuel production has also been linked to water scarcity and pollution problems including the devastating toxic algae blooms that scar major waterways across the country.

I hope that you will vote against Bill C-33.  Please confirm your intention to oppose this bill.  Comments in the House of Commons by Liberal Agriculture Critic, Wayne Easter 4 pm, May 26: 

“I am quite pleased to speak on Bill C-33 and this amendment and offer my support for the bill and not for the amendment... You know at one point in time all parties, all parties, seemed to be in favour of increasing biofuel production for several reasons Mr Speaker: One, to develop greater economic opportunities for rural Canada; Two, to offer alternative crop opportunities and better returns for farmers in rural Canada; and three, to provide for a move away form fossil fuels and therefore that would mean reduced reduce greenhouse gas impacts on Canadian society... 

But now Mr Speaker, because of changing circumstances in the global food supply and few other issues, in almost knee jerk reaction were getting some saying ethanol, if you can imagine this that ethanol is almost solely responsible for the global food shortage and therefore some party positions are switching. Mr Speaker, I put it to you this way: Bill 33 if we pass it or if we or if we reject will, in neither case, impact the global food shortage or surplus to any great extent. 

I mean lets be realistic here, ethanol in Canada in terms this bill, are we going to be in the modern world or are we going to stay behind the times, and Mr Speaker I think its time we get up to speed. But I can tell you this Mr Speaker: If we reject this bill, we will send a very negative message to those investors who took I think all parties’ words.  Investors based their investment decisions on plants that were already being built and on farmers who have put crops in the ground on the basis of those initial discussions in committee that had basically all parties supporting the bill C-33.  I can tell you Mr Speaker that if this bill is defeated, then somebody had better take responsibility for that lost investment opportunity and that lost investment for those people who had actually took the word of the various representatives of the parties that this bill would actually go through parliament.   You know they took our word that we would implement regulations that would implement regulations that would increase the content of ethanol and biodiesels in fuel by regulations. 

So Mr Speaker, simply put: investment has been made both in both on the farm in terms of the production of alternative crops and in plant capacity to build plants for the current feed stocks and in their mind as well for future feed stocks for ethanol production for cellulosic feed stocks etc.  

So Mr Speaker, if we reject this bill, we will have killed an economic opportunity for great numbers of Canadian and international investors and we will certainly have killed an  economic opportunity for a great number of Canadian Farmers.”