Rise of biofuel crops threatens native tribes

? Indigenous people are being pushed off their lands to make way for an expansion of biofuel crops around the world, threatening to destroy their cultures by forcing them into big cities, the head of a U.N. panel said Monday.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chairwoman of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said some of the native people most at risk live in Indonesia and Malaysia, which together produce 80 percent of the world’s palm oil – one of the crops used to make biofuels.

She said there are few statistics showing how many people are at risk of losing their lands, but in one Indonesian province the U.N. has identified 5 million indigenous people who will likely be displaced because of biofuel crop expansion.

“The speed with which this is happening we don’t really realize in our part of the world,” Ida Nicolaisen, an expert in indigenous cultures and member of the U.N. forum, said at a news conference. “Because the technology we have today and the economic resources that are at stake are so big, it happens overnight.”