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Saturday, February 27, 2010

A World Food Crisis?

Globally, and especially in Africa, food production distribution and access is complicated. It is a witch’s brew with ingredients include soils, knowledge, technology, oil prices, credit, labour, weather, corruption, infrastructure, poverty, water availability, urbanization, land tenure and more recently, biofuels.

Eliminating corn sucking ethanol plans would go a long way in reducing food prices and reducing world hunger. Biofuels now occupy centre stage as big business in industrialized. More importantly, biofuels funnel politically expedient subsidies to ill-tempered, whining farmers in North America. More than a quarter of US corn production goes into ethanol. The US is committed step up biofuel-content requirements, including ethanol content of 12 % in 2010.

But ethanol-blended gasoline reduces a car’s fuel economy because ethanol has lower energy content. Moreover, there is no rigorous evidence that ethanol lowers greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is ample evidence to show that corn-based ethanol creates a negative energy balance-burning one unit of ethanol produces less energy than was used to produce one unit.

Worse still, biofuels are making people, especially in poor countries, hungrier. A 2008 World Bank report estimated that as much as 75 % of food price increases between 2002 and 2008 could be attributed to biofuels.

It is therefore ironic that developed countries spent $ billion in financial support to biofuels in 2007. How would one appeal to the same wealthy countries to make contributions to halve the number of hungry by 2015.

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