But now that Monsanto wants to defend the agrofuel gravy-train that has sent food prices sky-rocketing, the company's spin has suddenly gone through the full 180 degrees!
The ethanol boom may be pushing millions towards starvation and still more deeper into poverty, but hey, says Rob Fraley, Monsanto's chief technology officer, "From a production perspective, we have abundance [of food]". Fraley now says the "challenges" are - wait for it! - in distribution and access to food because of wealth distribution.
There could be no clearer demonstration that Monsanto's concern has never been with feeding the hungry. Monsanto's leading role in lobbying for ethanol shows that as far as the company's concerned, the hungry can happily starve, as they're now starting to do in East Africa, as long as it's good for the company's bottom line.
Agribusiness alliance sharpens food-versus-fuel debate
Dow Jones Newswires, July 25 2008
*ADM, Monsanto and others argue ethanol subsidies should stay
A group of U.S. agribusiness companies led by Archer Daniels Midland Co. launched a new front in the intensifying food-versus-fuel debate Thursday, maintaining that technology can ease global supply shortages.
Decatur, Ill.-based ADM, backed by Deere & Co. of Moline, Ill., and seedmakers Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., made their call through a new lobbying organization called the Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy.
The move highlights a sharp divide in the U.S. agribusiness sector over domestic food and energy policy, notably subsidies for ethanol and other renewable fuels.
Members of the new alliance have argued technological improvements would continue to boost crop yields and prevent demand for renewable fuels from crowding out food supplies.
This view is fiercely opposed by companies such as Tyson Foods Inc., which has called for U.S. ethanol subsidies to be dropped as its profits have been eroded by higher feed costs for its poultry, pork and beef processing business.
ADM, Monsanto and others have seen their profits soar in recent years as booming demand for agricultural products in emerging markets has pushed up commodity prices and spurred additional production.
Prices of corn, soybeans, and other crops have reached record levels in recent weeks, and global stocks are at historic lows.
However, one alliance member said there was not a supply problem.
"From a production perspective, we have abundance [of food]," said Rob Fraley, Monsanto's chief technology officer. He said the "challenges" were in distribution and access to food because of wealth distribution.
Fraley dismissed concerns among critics of U.S. agricultural policy that productivity is slowing. "The rate of growth is positive," he said.
"[We want to] make the same sort of gains in processing efficiency as in agricultural productivity," added Todd Werpy, vice president of research at ADM.
The new coalition faces tough opposition, notably from the food producers' lobby in the U.S., which has been calling for the scrapping or reduction of subsidies to the ethanol industry.
"While improvements in global agriculture are vital, this work must not distract us from the fact that while we wait, millions of people will be pushed deeper into hunger and poverty because we are diverting more and more food and feed supplies to producing ethanol," said a statement from the Grocery Manufacturers' Association.
Tyson Chief Executive Dick Bond attributes rising food inflation in the U.S. to competition for corn from ethanol producers, as well as the rising global demand for protein that pushed corn and soybean prices to record levels.
Bond has called on Congress to reduce or drop a federal tax subsidy and end import tariffs on sugar-based ethanol.
Current U.S. renewable fuel policy includes a 51-cents-a-gallon subsidy on corn-produced ethanol and a tariff on imports, mainly sugar-based ethanol from Brazil.
"My fear is that if the body politic and the general public turns their back on the first generation [of ethanol], we won't have a second generation," said J.B. Penn, chief economist at Deere.
Mark Kornblau, the Democratic strategist who serves as executive director of the alliance, said it was seeking to expand its membership to other companies and government and non-government organizations overseas.
"We are trying to paint a broader picture [and] raise the level of debate," said Kornblau.
NOTE: For a decade or more, in the face of global opposition to GMOs, Monsanto has proclaimed that GM crops are vital to feeding a hungry world, while critics countered that the food is there and distribution is the key.