viernes, julio 11, 2008

Biofuel and the World Food Crisis

By: GRITtv Friday July 11, 2008 3:00 pm

Food or fuel. Does there have to be a trade-off? Not long ago, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food called the conversion of food-grains to fuel a "crime against humanity," but GRITtv's panelists lay out a much more complicated picture.

It's not just the biofuels, it's agribusiness and trade policy, not to mention market speculations that are to blame. Besides, we must be very careful about our language, says Anna Lappe: "it's not a food crisis, it's a food price crisis." The planet grows plenty of food, it's the purchase price that's threatening three billion people -- three billion-- with malnutrition if current trends keep up.

Steven Levy of the National Biodiesel Board and Sprague Energy says we've been asleep at the wheel since oil went back to less than $10 a barrel after the last U.S. fuel crisis in the 1970s.

Joel Berg, a former food security expert at the USDA, now heads up the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Not long ago he lived for a week on food stamps and found just how far the check would take him. Not far. He could only buy the mealy apples (not the organics,) and only the cheapest eggs. This year, he tells GRITtv, he repriced the goods in the imaginary food stamp basket. He wouldn't be able to afford any eggs at all.

The discussion here is rich. It's amazing what can happen when the conversation's not underwritten by Archer Daniels Midland, the ubiquitous agri-business media sponsor. No one trigger has caused the food crisis, but there are concrete steps governments could take to solve the problem, says Yifat Susskind of MADRE With several sister organizations, MADRE wrote a proposal to the leaders of the G8 countries, to support "real solutions" to the situation that threatens to destablize dozens of countries. But sustainable agriculture requires sustainable economic policies, said Susskind. For more on the MADRE plan go to

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