Ethanol apologists have long maintained the the production of the fuel does not impact the price or availability of food.
Now a group of food scientists have called for a moratorium on bio fuels production due to food shortages in the third world caused partly by the production of ethanol - the same day that President Bush said in a press conference that ethanol was part of his plan to reduce our dependence on foreign oil:
Food production is not the cause of the current crisis in the 3rd world. Rather it is politics and panic coupled with tight supplies as a result of so much acreage given over to production of grains for ethanol.
But even as the scientists were calling for a moratorium, President Bush urged the opposite. He declared the United States should increase ethanol use because of national energy security and high gas prices.
The conflicting messages Tuesday highlighted the ongoing debate over food and fuel needs.
The three senior scientists with an international research consortium pushing a biofuel moratorium said nations need to rethink programs that divert food such as corn and soybeans into fuel, given the burgeoning worldwide food crisis. The group, CGIAR, is a global network that uses science to fight hunger. It is funded by dozens of countries and private foundations.
If leading nations stopped biofuel use this year, it would lead to a price decline in corn by about 20 percent and wheat by about 10 percent from 2009-10, said Joachim von Braun. He heads the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, the policy arm of CGIAR. The United States is the biggest biofuel producer.
He and the other scientists said work should be stepped up on the use of non-grain crops, such as switchgrass, for biofuel.
Another scientist, not associated with the group, agreed with their call for a halt on the use of grain for fuel.
"We need to feed the stomach before we need to feed our cars," said Rattan Lal, an Ohio State University soil sciences professor who in the past has been a critic of some of CGIAR's priorities. "We have 1 billion people who are food insecure. We can't afford the luxury of not taking care of them and taking care of gasoline."
Not much can be done about incompetent governments or human nature. But we can darn sure abandon the idea of using corn and wheat to power our automobiles. Politicians pander to farmers to push this scheme and now it has been proven to be bad for the food supply as well as just plain bad government.