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  Members of Abrono Organic Farming Project (ABOFAP) in their organic chilli farm near Techiman, Ghana.  (Photo: Global Justice Now/flickr/cc)

'Exxons of Agriculture' Wielding Power to Block Real Climate Solutions: Report

The industry 'fuels a model of agriculture that is destroying the planet,' report states.

Andrea Germanos

Fertilizer companies are the "Exxons of agriculture" and are blocking beneficial climate climate policies with their massive lobbying power, a new report charges.

The publication by GRAIN, an international nonprofit organization that advocates for locally-controlled, biodiversity-based food systems, describes how the fertilizer industry, whose products the group says are responsible for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, has joined forces with major corporations like Walmart in order to cast itself as a purveyor of "climate smart" policies while protecting its interests.

Yet these so-called "climate smart" polices that rely on the industry's products are anything but, GRAIN states. Take nitrogen fertilizers—they take a lot of energy to produce, and they are increasingly relying on fracked wells for that production. The damage continues once they're applied to fields, the report continues:

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that for every 100 kg of nitrogen fertilizer applied to the soil, one kg ends up in the atmosphere as nitrous oxide (N2O), a gas that is 300 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas and is the world's most significant ozone-depleting substance. In 2014, this was equivalent to the average annual emissions of 72 million cars driven in the US—about a third of the US fleet of cars and trucks.

"Fertilizer companies, like Yara of Norway, are the Exxons of agriculture," Henk Hobbelink, the Coordinator of GRAIN, said in a media statement. "They fuel a model of agriculture that is destroying the planet and they are doing everything in their power to block action on climate change that would injure their profits."

Case in point of the industry's power to block such action is the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture. Launched last year at the UN Summit on Climate Change in New York, GACSA's stated goal is "is to improve people’s food security and nutrition in the face of climate change."

The report describes it as

the culmination of several years of efforts by the fertilizer lobby to block meaningful action on agriculture and climate change. Of the Alliance's 29 non-governmental founding members, there are three fertilizer industry lobby groups, two of the world's largest fertilizer companies (Yara of Norway and Mosaic of the US), and a handful of organizations working directly with fertilizer companies on climate change programs. Today, 60% of the private sector members of the Alliance still come from the fertilizer industry.

This group deserves no voice at COP21, the upcoming UN climate summit, GRAIN says, as "The elimination of chemical fertilizers is one of the easiest and most effective places to start" to bring about climate change action.

The industry's claims that we can't stop using their products are proven false by various studies showing that agroecological practices can produce the shame yields as industrial agriculture, the report sates.

"We now can say that the use of chemical fertilizers this year will generate more GHG emissions than the total GHG emissions from all of the cars and trucks driven in the US," added Devlin Kuyek, a researcher with GRAIN, in a statement. "The good news is that there is a quick fix for this problem: a worldwide switch to agroecological practices that can achieve the same yields without chemicals."

"Kicking the fertilizer habit is really a matter of politics," the report concludes. "No meaningful action can occur until the fertilizer industry's grip on policy makers is loosened. Let's start making this happen by shutting down the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture and booting the fertilizer companies out of the COP21 in Paris," it states.

GRAIN was among hundreds of signatories to a statement issued this month calling on governments and decision-makers "to reject the dangerous rhetoric of Climate-Smart Agriculture" and not to endorse such policies as a solution to climate change.


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