The world’s food situation is bleak, and shortsighted policies in the United States and other wealthy countries — which are diverting crops to environmentally dubious biofuels — bear much of the blame. NYT editorial, 03.03.08To follow up on Monday's post, food prices are going up and that affects the bottom line at the family dinner table. There are a myriad of reasons behind rising prices, including the obvious (gasoline and oil prices) and the less obvious (droughts in Australia). You can't change the weather, but flawed U.S. agricultural policy favoring ethanol production should be addressed immediately. It's killing me that the ethanol craze is not only bad for the environment,* but that it's also causing domestic food prices to rise and lending to global hunger.
Every food commodity--wheat corn, milk, hay, cooking oil, soybeans--is going up in the global markets. According to the Economist,
[The cause is] America's reckless ethanol subsidies. This year biofuels will take a third of America's (record) maize harvest. That affects food markets directly: fill up an SUV's fuel tank with ethanol and you have used enough maize to feed a person for a year. And it affects them indirectly, as farmers switch to maize from other crops. The Economist, 12.06.07Higher prices are just hitting U.S. consumers at the grocery store, and it is still unclear how Americans will react to higher food prices. But in poor countries, the situation is more dire.
In Haiti, the prices of rice, beans, condensed milk and fruit have ballooned by around 50 percent in a year, leaving the poor to rely on cookies made of mud. Mike Nizza, The Lede, NYT Blog 01.30.08The outcry over ethanol and its possible negative effects on the food supply is not new. The New York Times and others have been reporting worries since at least 2006. We may have to wait for a new administration in 2009 for any real change, but U.S. farm policy should be considered a high priority for both fighting a recession and salvaging international relations.
U.S. families are being pinched by housing woes, gasoline prices, and now food prices. You have to keep buying milk for the kids, so what else will give? One good thing about having family dinners is that as you learn to cook and prepare meals, you can learn how to economize and stretch your food budget. Cooking for a family, even with higher food prices, is definitely more economical than take-out or convenience foods.
*Greenhouse gases may increase substantially in a switch to ethanol, according to Princeton University researcher, Timothy Searchinger.
More Articles and Resources on Ethanol and Food Prices
Priced out of the market NYT editorial 3.3.08
Why Ethanol Production Will Drive Food Prices Even Higher in 2008, Earth Policy Institute
Bloomberg Report on Ethanol Demand in U.S. adds to Food, Fertilzer Costs Bloomberg.com, 2.21.08
Study: Ethanol Worse for Climate than Gasoline, NPR, 02.07.08
The Dire Side of Rising Food Prices The Lede, NYT Blog, 01.30.08
A New Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories, NYT 01.19.08
The end of cheap food. The Economist, 12.06.07
Corn Farmers Smile as Ethanol Prices Rise, but Experts on Food Supplies Worry
Articles on Grocery Prices in U.S.
Are you affected by rising food prices? Required Eating Blog, 01.21.08
Food Prices Soar in America CNN Money, 12.20.07
50 Ways to Fight High Grocery Bills. I don't agree with all of these, but many of the tips are useful.