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Biofuels caused food crisis according to secret report

According to a secret World Bank report obtained by the Guardian biofuels have increased global food prices by up to 75%. The report dismisses the idea that droughts in Australia and rising demand from India and China has caused the rising food costs. The report instead claims that "the EU and US drive for biofuels has had by far the biggest impact on food supply and prices".

"Political leaders seem intent on suppressing and ignoring the strong evidence that biofuels are a major factor in recent food price rises," said Robert Bailey, policy adviser at Oxfam. "It is imperative that we have the full picture. While politicians concentrate on keeping industry lobbies happy, people in poor countries cannot afford enough to eat."

Rising food prices have pushed 100m people worldwide below the poverty line, estimates the World Bank, and have sparked riots from Bangladesh to Egypt. Government ministers here have described higher food and fuel prices as "the first real economic crisis of globalisation".

The report "would put the World Bank in a political hot-spot with the White House." The US government claims that biofuels only contribute to about 3% in increased food prices. Senior development sources have said that the report "has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush."

But it's not just USA who should feel embarrassed by the findings in the report. The European Union is also a big player in the biofuel world.

Recently the European Environment Agency's (EEA) Scientific Committee called for the suspension of EU's target to increase the share of biofuels used in transportation to 10% by 2020. The committee has called for a new, "comprehensive scientific study on the environmental risks and benefits of biofuels" before any targets should be set.

And it wasn't long ago Jean Ziegler, UN's special rapporteur on the right to food, called for the suspension of biofuels production saying biofuels are a "crime against humanity." And before that, Finance Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said that "it is "outrageous" that developed countries are turning food crops into biofuels while billions of people in the developing countries are living on the edge and trying to cope with escalating food prices".

And even more pressure is expected to come from the British governments own report on the impact of biofuels, the Gallagher Report.

"The Guardian has previously reported that the British study will state that plant fuels have
played a "significant" part in pushing up food prices
to record levels. Although it was expected last week, the report has still not been released."

Have our car-fetish really taken us this far? Do we actually approve and like the idea to transform food into fuel to keep our gas-guzzling cars running, no matter what the costs are?

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So we are to believe that if bio-fuel production were to stop entirely the price of food would go down by 75%? The cost of oil would still be up from $60 a barrel in 2007 to over $140 dollars a barrel today. How can they claim with a straight face that it is all bio fuels and not attribute the majority of this to the cost of energy. Energy is used in every step of food production starting with fertilizer (produced from oil) and then the planting/tilling/harvest of the food. Then transportation to send it to be processed and then the energy to process it. Then the energy to send it to market. On and on and on. I really don't like corn ethanol but it is just a stepping stone to get were we need to be with other forms of renewable energy. Reasonable studies have shown that the cost of producing ethanol keeps the cost of gasoline down reducing the typical energy bill much more then it increases the cost of food. This produces a net gain for the consumer. Granted that the ratio of energy consumption/food consumption is much different in the developing world so one countries 3% increase in in food is another countries 75%. Keeping in mind that most studies attribute the vast majority of these cost increases to basic energy costs not bio-fuels. In my opinion this is just sensational news. If you think just a little it just does not add up when we still have a net surplus of corn. Human consumption is > 10% of all the field corn we produce. The same corn that is used to make bio-fuels. The rest goes to animal feed. Any corn used to make ethanol can still be used as perfectly good animal feed in the form of dried distillers grains. In fact, in Europe it is the preferred form over raw corn. It actually makes sense to remove the ethanol sugars before feeding to animals. Studies have shown they do better after the sugars are removed leaving behind proteins.

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