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Commentary: Food vs Fuel Debate does not apply to Jatropha

Laoag City (13 February) -- Jatropha, known to many as tuba tuba, has generated much attention from alternative energy proponents that investors are swiftly shifting gears to the crop while the debate on food versus fuel occupies center-stage.

A major concern about mega plantations, such as palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia is that, apart from the destruction of the natural habitat and the conversion of forest into land for energy crop, these ventures are more likely to feed into Europe, which today is its biggest investor and consumer."

But while analysts, economists and activists continue to question the supposed conversion of several hectares of land formerly devoted to food as a breeding ground for fuel crops, there ought not be a debate on "food versus fuel" because the discord does not apply to jatropha.

Consider the following:

Jatropha "grows on marginal and unproductive land. Its large-scale cultivation will not lessen land used for the production of food."

Jatropha is a non-food crop. The issue over diverting food to fuel does not apply in this instance. That is the biggest advantage of jatropha.

The food-vs-fuel debate is understandable, since the issue centers on the sustainability of food crops to drive biofuel markets in the coming years.

Proponents of jatropha said that they do not compete for land with producers of rice, corn, fruits, veggies and livestock because food and fuel security can go hand in hand.

The biofuels arm of the Philippine National Oil Company had anticipated the food-versus-fuel dilemma that the company focused on inedible but oil-laden jatropha and only in idle lands or denuded hills.

In fact, they do not entice land-owners and farmers to shift from food production to jatropha farming. Instead, farmers are advised to convert their idle lands or denuded hills for additional income by learning jatropha cultivation. (PIA Ilocos Norte) [top]

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