1.Go Ahead, Blame Biofuels
2.'Scapegoating of Ethanol'
3.Concerns over ethanol deserve frank discussion
4.Feast or famine or something in between?

NOTE: There's a growing realisation that at the behest of big agribiz, George W. Bush may have been responsible for a greater crime against humanity than even Iraq.

EXTRACTS: while hunger stalks destitute millions, agribusiness giants chalk up stunning profits. (item 4)
1.Go Ahead, Blame Biofuels
by Rachel Smolker
Business Week, May 20 2008 htm

A switch from fossil fuels to ethanol and its kin diverts resources from food production, leading to hunger and destabilization of farming

In the beginning it seemed like a good idea. Instead of burning dirty fossil fuels, we can power our cars using plant-based "biofuels." So said proponents of such fuel alternatives as ethanol. It would be like switching from a diet of greasy hamburgers to pure, sweet green tea.

Most environmentalists went along with the idea [??!!!!!], and governments around the globe adopted policies mandating biofuel use and supporting the burgeoning new industry with subsidies. Multinational agribusiness giants, including Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill, Bunge (BG), and Monsanto (MON), rolled up their sleeves and prepared their coffers for a major cash influx. So did the biotechnology industries, expecting an opportunity to market genetically engineered crops for fuel, even where their food crops remain unpopular.

Auto manufacturers breathed a sigh of relief: With an alternative fuel available, people wouldn't bother to drive less. Big Oil, with an eye on future profits, ramped up investment and a major greenwash campaign.

An Even Worse Mess

A few lonesome voices suggested there could be negative consequences.

Lester Brown, from the Earth Policy Institute, for example, predicted that "the stage is now set for direct competition for grain between the 800 million people who own automobiles and the world's 2 billion poorest people." Others pointed out that agriculture itself is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and hence not to be relied upon as a solution to climate change. Nongovernmental organizations in Latin America, Africa, the European Union, and the U.S. called for moratoriums on incentives and targets that mandated biofuel use.

Now we are faced with the predicted mess. The push for biofuels has forced people off their land, caused deforestation, sucked aquifers dry, and increased the use of fertilizers and agrichemicals. To top it off, a study published recently in Science showed that biofuels result in far more, rather than less, greenhouse gas emissions.

As if that were not enough, food prices have skyrocketed...

Relief of Hunger
In the short term, it is not enough to apologize while millions are starving to death. We must pony up the funds to alleviate the food crisis immediately. The U.N. has requested an additional $500 million to $700 million in aid. (The Iraq war is costing the U.S. $350 million every day).

In the long term, we must take agriculture out of the hands of Big Business and put it back into the hands of people who need more than ever to be able to feed themselves on their own terms. ADM and Cargill reported record profits, jumping 42% and 86%, respectively, in the past quarter alone. While they once again reap the gains of bad agriculture policy, biofuels may go down as the most misguided of all: In the words of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, overreliance on biofuels is indeed "a crime against humanity."
2.'Scapegoating of Ethanol'
Extract from the Congressional Record, page S4243
May 15 2008

Senator Charles Grassley [Republican Senator for Iowa]:
A U.N. official has recently referred to biofuels as 'a crime against humanity.' Mr. Ziegler, from the country of Switzerland, might benefit from a review of European policies that ban or restrict the growth and import of genetically modified crops.

Let me explain that genetically modified crops have had a great deal to do with the increased production of corn per acre, from 91 bushels per acre in 1979, to 107 bushels per acre in 2000, to 150 to 160 bushels per acre in 2007.

While U.S. farmers are taking great strides, through the use of genetically modified grains, to feed the world, Europe is taking a step backward--the same Europe that Mr. Ziegler lives in, who is saying that biofuels is 'a crime against humanity.'

As a result, you have a ripple effect of the policies in Europe because African countries are reluctant to grow genetically modified grains, even though their production gains are great, because European countries might restrict their imports from those African countries.

I might suggest Mr. Ziegler focus more of his efforts on opportunities lost as to growing more grains in Europe and focus on GMOs and their use in Europe than our biofuels policy.
3.Concerns over ethanol deserve frank discussion
IOWA CITY PRESS CITIZEN, April 26 2008 03/804260322/1018/OPINION

We're pleased that Sen. Charles Grassley represents Iowa so well when it comes to ferreting out misuses of tax-exempt status.

When Grassley questions how university athletics departments give out luxury box tickets in exchange for large "donations," and when he begins scrutinizing televangelists for how they use of the millions they rake in, he brings his Iowa common sense to bear on potential tax abuses...

But we were left scratching our heads recently when Grassley tried to defend ethanol from charges that the bio-fuel was contributing to rising food prices. In a conference call with reporters earlier this week, Grassley observed that if the rising cost of food prices can be blamed on the use of corn for ethanol, then it can also be blamed on the growth of meat consumption in China, which increases the use of grain for livestock feed.

Or, in the words of Iowa's senior senator, "If part of our problem is that the Chinese are going to eat meat and you've got to have corn and soybeans to feed the Chinese their meat, then why isn't it just as legitimate for the Chinese to go back and eat rice as it is for us to change our policy on corn to ethanol?"

With so many international groups -- including the World Bank -- criticizing the U.S. over its policy of converting corn and soybeans to biofuels, Grassley's comments are downright bizarre. They belittle legitimate concerns over how ethanol

*requires huge amounts of energy to produce,

*produces a number of hazardous byproducts,

*drives up the price for agricultural staples and

*changes land use in a way that could be harmful to the environment.

As committed as we are to seeing Iowa become a leader in the production of bio- and other alternative fuels, such unintended consequences should be acknowledged and addressed and not dismissed with a poor attempt to change the discussion.

Besides, if Grassley wants to invoke the growing consumption of pork as a possible explanation for growing world food prices, he only reinforces the international image of the U.S. as feeding its own cars and bellies at the expense of the rest of the world...
4.Feast or famine or something in between?
Stephen Hume
Vancouver Sun, May 20 2008 c8-946d-37a941724050

Let's not be naive about the way the 'free market' works

A billion people will fall back into extreme poverty unless the world offsets soaring food costs, the Asian Development Bank warns.

Yet how likely is a quick fix as oil prices gallop toward a threshold beyond which the developed world's major economies will begin to stall?

The United States government predicts bumper wheat and rice crops this year. They might ease food inflation -- but how much and for how long? If food is a global trading commodity, to keep it affordable requires cheap oil. As crude prices climb, so must costs of feeding livestock, applying fertilizers, harvesting, refrigerating and hauling perishable food to distant markets like British Columbia, which produces only 48 per cent of the food consumed and thus is largely a price-taker and vulnerable to disruptions in supply.

So, all of us are in this together. That back lawn might yet wind up supplementing the larder. Nothing new there, of course, victory gardens were everywhere during the Second World War. Most families kept a big garden during the Great Depression. It's no accident that old neighborhoods feature fruit trees in the backyard.

I'm no agronomist, and global agriculture is devilishly complicated, but this crisis seems unlikely to abate soon. Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations' top food adviser, recently told Le Monde we're now reaping "20 years of mistakes." First, there were major miscalculations by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

They "reformed" world agriculture for efficiency. Developing countries dismantled protections for local farmers, encouraged export crops and opened markets to agribusiness. Small farmers failed when cheap, heavily subsidized imports flooded in from the developed world. Now countries are helpless as suppliers jack up prices.

Might we be on the same track? Our National Farmers Union warns that between 1988 and 2008 we've seen a 260-per-cent increase in agri-food exports while realized net farm income fell by more than half, farm debt doubled and the number of farmers decreased by 20 per cent.

Second, the stampede to convert food production to biofuels, also massively subsidized, which de Schutter called a "scandal that only serves the interests of a tiny lobby."

Third, the agribusiness giants themselves, which seek to control global agricultural by patenting fertilizers, pesticides and engineered seeds like those that are herbicide-tolerant or include "terminator" genes, are forcing farmers to buy new seed every season from the supplier. Despite this high technology, world agricultural and food production grew by less than one per cent in 2006. World population grew by about 1.5 per cent.

Yet while hunger stalks destitute millions, agribusiness giants chalk up stunning profits.

In the first quarter of 2008, Monsanto doubled net income over 2007's first quarter. Cargill, the world's biggest grain trader, saw net earnings jump 86 per cent. Cargill owns 21 per cent of Canada's flour-milling capacity, the NFU says. Archer Daniels Midland, which the NFU says owns 42 per cent of Canada's flour-milling capacity, reported a 42-per-cent jump in net earnings. The Mosaic Co., a global supplier of fertilizer, reported income for the three months to the end of February up 12-fold. Bunge, dominant in soybeans, increased net earnings 1,964 per cent compared to its first quarter in 2007.