Corn: Balancing demands for food and biofuel tricky

| | September 4, 2015
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Corn is the main ingredient for ethanol, a biofuel. Pumping gas today means pumping a blend of gasoline and ethanol. As a result, much of the corn grown to feed livestock has been redirected to produce ethanol. Food and fuel are in competition. Biofuel demand was one of the major contributors to high food prices during the 2007-08 food price crisis.

There were several motivations for using biofuel:  high oil pricesnational energy security, and environmental concerns. These led to policies that encouraged more ethanol production.

Yet, oil prices have been falling, and food prices are too. At the same time, the US crude oil supply is at a 30-year high. And the benefits of biofuels are debatable. So, why are biofuels still increasingly produced?

A major reason is the continued mandate to blend ethanol with gasoline.

With continued demand for biofuels, can small farmers in developing countries benefit? Producing biofuel crops could help reduce food insecurity for smallholder farmers, and enhance economic development. On the other hand, land acquisition for biofuel expansion has caused some farmers to lose their land.

How can we strike a balance in achieving food security while supporting alternative fuels? First, encourage “second generation” biofuels made from, for example, food waste. A Low-Carbon Fuel Standard, could reduce pollution rather than simply promote more ethanol production.

Policies that create uneven playing fields for small farmers should be questioned. For example, the EU’s sustainability criteria imposes strict levels of reduced emissions for biofuel production, making it difficult for small farmers in Africa to enter the market.

Biofuels could worsen the food-fuel competition, or help reduce poverty and hunger for many. We must focus on finding the right balance in farming food and fueling our cars.

Read full, original post: A Balancing Act: Food for the Hungry, Fuel for Your Car

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