What is in this article?:
- A new report from Oxfam rightfully raises concerns about the potential effects of unmitigated commodity speculation, escalating oil prices, underinvestment in agriculture technology, and climate change on future world food supplies. But the report misses the mark when it makes unsupported claims about the effect of biofuels on global food supplies.
Troublingly, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have chosen to scapegoat American ethanol production as a driver in perceived food shortages and price increases rather than tackle the true challenges to feeding a growing global population. A study entitled “Battles over Biofuels in Europe: NGOs and the Politics of Markets” and published in the journal Sociological Research Online on Aug. 31, 2010 found that much of this biofuel angst was driven by perceived political vulnerability in biofuel policy, not underlying data supporting anti-biofuel rhetoric.
For example, the US uses just 3 percent of the world’s grain on a net basis (U.S. producers do not use food grains like wheat and rice) to produce more than 13 billion gallons of ethanol and nearly 40 million metric tons of livestock feed. In the U.S. specifically, ethanol production utilizes 25 percent of the nation’s net corn crop, not the 40 percent frequently trumpeted by biofuel opponents.
“Meeting growing global demand for food, feed, and energy necessarily requires addressing a number of key issues simultaneously,” said Dinneen. “Narrowing the focus to isolate one aspect, such as biofuel production, without addressing the dangers posed by a growing dependence on petroleum, will continue to have us chasing our tail. The continually evolving biofuels industry is one tool that should be used to improve rural economies, increase on-farm productivity, and provide impoverished nation’s a means to become more food and energy self-sufficient.”â€¨