February 29, 2008

Why is world going hungry? Blame ethanol

AMERICANS, WHO mainly can afford it, are paying more for food these days, but as a new U.N. report reminds us, there are poor people around the world who can't afford the rising prices.

They are going hungry, are rioting in some countries — are even resorting to eating mud cookies in Haiti — and maybe you are wondering why.

Ethanol, that's why.

Full Article

And the rest of the article goes on say that it is not only ethanol's fault, it is our fault. So it is not the world's quest for biofuels that is causing the problem it is our quest for biofuels alone that is at issue.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, ethanol has not lessened the amount of food that we are producing. And given that export numbers are up for almost all of our agricultural products, it is obvious that we are doing our part to supply the world with food.

Now if the argument is the increased food prices, one has to wonder the effectiveness of the strategy the author is advocating. Would it not be better to provide farmers in other countries with the seed and farming techniques to increase there own production instead of competing against them with cheaper commodities. The cheap food prices of the past have driven small farmers around the world out of business and created the dependency on our agricultural products.

For example look at this article from July 2006.

The growing dilemma that Mexico's 2 million corn farmers face as the tariffs that protect them shrink under the North American Free Trade Agreement was an issue in this month's presidential election. And as the United States wrestles with already high levels of illegal immigration, some experts say the demise of Mexico's peasantry deserves serious U.S. attention.

"The Bush administration has sought to control immigration at the border, but that's virtually impossible," said Harley Shaiken, director of UC Berkeley's Center for Latin American Studies. "The beginnings of immigration are in the displacement of farmers in Mexico."

An estimated 1.5 million agricultural jobs have been lost since NAFTA went into effect in 1994.

Now contrast that to this article from April 2007.

Now, with supplies short and prices for the grain on world markets reaching 10-year highs of over $4 a bushel in February, farmers are being feted by government ministers who want more corn acres planted for food and energy.

“Thanks to God and good prices, things are looking up,” said farmer Rogelio Zacaula, 66, in the agricultural town of Ciudad Serdan, east of Mexico City.

Higher prices benefits farmers around the world. The farmers then spend there money in their area which benefits their local economy and raises the standard of living for the area. It will all balance out in time.

It is easy to look for the negatives in a situation or to get tied up in the emotions surrounding an issue. But this issue also represents opportunities for the farmers around the world. Strengthening local farming is an opportunity for communities around the world to lessen their dependence on imported food items and live in a more economically sustainable way. As is often said, and something that I truly believe in, what is good for farmers is good for the local community.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Contrary to your deeply held belief. Corn is a horrible medium by which to make ethanol. Sugar Beets, apples, and sorgum, grass, and other types of raw materials are much better because they contain more starch. Starch coverts to sugar, which in turn makes ethanol.

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