Food vs. Fuel Battle Flares at UN Summit

Egypt's Mubarak asks, should we be feeding people or cars?
By Jim O'Neill,  Newser User
Posted Jun 4, 2008 10:57 AM CDT
A group of Bangladeshi children return home after collecting rice from a government subsidized outlet at Nawabganj in Dhaka, Bangladesh.   (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman)
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(Newser) – The battle over biofuels is raging at the UN’s food summit in Rome, with nations bitterly divided over whether growing corn and sugar cane for ethanol production is pushing food prices up and helping create disastrous global food shortages. On one side: Food experts who call diversion of crops to fill the fuel tanks of wealthy nations immoral. On the other: the US, Brazil, and the EU, the main players on the biofuel stage.

"Biofuels are not the villain menacing food security in poor countries," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told assembled heads of state, adding that the soaring price of oil is the larger culprit. The US says ethanol accounts for only 2%-3% of recent food price increases; one food policy analyst tells the BBC the figure is closer to 30%. UN food chief Jacques Diouf says 100 million tons of crops are being used to produce fuel, backed by subsidies in excess of $11 billion dollars."