Fbae Logo
Home | | Support Us | Contact Us
Goals & Objectives Our Position False Propaganda Special Topics Important Publications Important Links Events news Biosafety
Fbae Header Home




U.S. Food Policy Under Fire at Summit
Tracy Wilkinson

Los Angeles Times,
June 5 2008

*Critics blame biofuel production for price rises and global hunger. Delegates struggle to reach a compromise at Rome meeting.

ROME -- Outside the U.N. emergency summit on food here, protesters dressed as ears of corn. Inside, Bush administration officials Wednesday found themselves on the defensive on a wide range of U.S. policies, from biofuel production to genetic engineering and subsidies.

Delegates clashed during the second day of the three-day meeting over how much blame can be assigned to biofuels for the meteoric rise in food prices. The U.S. is an enthusiastic supporter of the robust and heavily subsidized biofuel industry, with plans to allocate about a quarter of its corn crop to the lucrative production of ethanol.

But many other nations and numerous aid agencies contend that too much food is ending up in fuel tanks and not on dinner tables, deepening a threat of global starvation.

Agriculture Secretary Edward T. Schafer, leading the U.S. delegation, emerged from a series of side meetings and acknowledged that a struggle was underway to reach compromise language on the biofuels issue.

Drafts of a final summit declaration, circulating late Wednesday, reflected watered-down recommendations of "further studies" on biofuels, hardly viewed as a decisive position.

Finding consensus on biofuels, which are made from corn, sugar cane, palm oil and other foodstuffs, had been one of the goals outlined by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in opening the summit here at the headquarters of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO. Opponents and supporters diverge wildly on the pros and cons of biofuels and how harmful they may or may not be.

Schafer maintains that bumper U.S. crops provide plenty of corn for both eating and filling tanks. He says biofuels account for no more than 3% of the hike in prices of commodities, which in some cases have doubled in recent years.

Several U.N. agencies, relief groups and the International Monetary Fund, however, say as much as 30% of the increase could be blamed on biofuels.

"Even 1% represents hardship for 16 million people," said Madelon Meijer, agricultural policy advisor for the British aid agency Oxfam. "Three percent already plunges a lot more people into poverty."

Oxfam was one of several groups staging demonstrations outside the conference, with people dressed as corn carrying out symbolic tugs of war between the hungry and those needing fuel. Oxfam argues that the amount of grain required to produce enough ethanol to fill an SUV's tank could feed one person for a year.

Biofuels were once hailed as an alternative to dirty fossil fuels and a way to ease dependence on oil. But experts and others increasingly question the efficiency of biofuels and assert that ethanol production is usurping arable land that should be used for growing food crops or left as oxygen-enhancing forests, wetlands and natural habitats.

Another alternative, of the so-called second-generation biofuels, has emerged. These are fuels made from nonfood substances such as grasses. However, they have not been fully studied and prompt other concerns, such as whether they might become invasive weed-like species if cultivated near other crops.

"We are all reevaluating our policies and technologies . . . and hope to move as quickly to second-generation fuels as possible," Henrietta Fore, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and a member of the delegation, said in a briefing with reporters.

At a closed-door session Wednesday, Schafer also cited second-generation fuels to deflect criticism over U.S. policy, said officials who were present.

"I didn't hear anyone say that demand for biofuels was . . . not part of the equation," said Hafez Ghanem, FAO assistant director-general. "People came up with different figures, of how much to blame this or that cause. We all do agree that we are not facing a transitive problem; this is a problem that will be here for a while."

American agricultural business groups contend biofuels are being unfairly targeted. A large portion of food price increases involve wheat and rice, which are not used for fuel, said Ron Litterer, who farms 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans in Greene, Iowa. Litterer, who is also president of the National Corn Growers Assn., said sufficient corn was being raised for food and fuel. "We've had record production," he said in a telephone interview from Iowa.

The shift to biofuels is only one cause of rocketing food prices. Other factors converging disastrously include high fuel costs, speculation, droughts and floods, and changing diets that spawn greater demand.

American officials are also using the summit to promote genetic engineering as a way to boost food production by increasing crop yields, creating drought-resistant strains and fighting diseases such as stem rust in wheat. But several European countries have banned the use of genetically modified foods.

U.S. officials said they would bypass the Europeans and work directly with developing nations that could benefit from the technology.

"We have a crisis of food availability and prices . . . and this is a tool we can turn to," said Fore, the USAID administrator. She called on opponents to "take a fresh look" at a time that "too many people are hungry."


Related News Articles

Influence of Transgenosis on the Plant-Insect- Relationships, in Particular on Chemically       Mediated Interactions

Effect of Transgenes Conferring Enhanced Pathogen Resistance on the Interaction with Symbiotic        Fungi in Rice

Impact on the Soil Ecosystem through Natural and Genetically Engineered Organisms:
      Effects, Methods and Definition of Damage as Contribution to Risk Assessment

The Decomposition of Bt-Corn on the Fields and its Impact on Earthworms and on other        Macroorganisms in the Soil

Environmental Post-market Monitoring of Bt-maize:
       Approaches to Detect Potential Effects on Butterflies and Natural Enemies

Columns by Dan Gardner

Against the Grains: 'The Terminator Hoax '

Decisions taken in the 84th Meeting of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee

Brazilian Health Biotech: Fostering Crosstalk Between Public and Private Sectors

Biotechnology Related Article Appeared on 'Samyukta Karnataka' ( Regional Language )
June 12, 2008.

Nothing Left to the Imagination

The Politics of GM Food
Kirit S Javali

Hi-tech seed factories: Sowing Seeds of Success

"Indian Seed Industry is Well Placed to Serve Both Domestic and International Markets"
Dr MK Sharma,
Managing Director,
Mahyco Monsanto

"If we Facilitate Seed Industry, we Facilitate Growth in Agriculture"
Dr Govind Garg,
Krishidhan Seeds

Metagenomics: Window to the Microbial Universe

Few Checks to Prevent Entry of GM Food

Gene Campaign Criticises India’s ‘Silence’ at Global Bio-Safety Meet

An Enforceable International Compact for Infectious Diseases

"Indian Science in Genomics has been Able to Place Itself on the Global Map"

Indian Gene Decoded

The Development of RNAi as a Therapeutic Strategy

FAO E-Conference on Biotechnologies and Water Scarcity

Genetic Landscape

Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture

RH Nature Reviews Genetics 08- Opposition to Transgenic Technologies

Germany: Discussion Paper of German Ag-Industry about EU Biotech Policy Implications

Bt maize performance in Spain

Arsenic speciation varies with type of rice

Why I Am Bothered by Neo-Colonialist NGOs

China experts identify gene for yield, height in rice

The French government has called for a debate on the review of the EU
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has also repeatedly criticised the EU for "undue delays" in the authorisation of GMOs. See the latest WTO ruling:

The legal bans are in France, Austria, Poland, Hungary and Greece.

EU delays decision on approving more GM crops

UCR Geneticist Plays Scientific Advisor to Movie about “Love, Adventure and ... Genetically Modified Rice”

Gujrat worst-hit by illegal Bt cotton production

Farmers seek ban on GM crops

Call for policing
Ijaz Ahmed Rao discusses the virtues of a bio-safety framework for genetically modified crops, now that they have become farmers’ favourite

Stem cells: The 3-billion-dollar question

Genes as the solution

Food crisis spurs research spending

Global Food Crisis / UN / Bilingual Transcript of Statements by Secretary-General, Heads of Concerned Agencies, and Response to Questions at Press Conference on Global Food CrisisGM Crops, A World View

Mass Protests against GM Crops in IndiaInterference at the EPA

Open letter to Robert B. Zoellick, President, World BankNew BT variety may push short staple cotton output.

The future of agricultural biotechnology: Creative, destruction, adoption, or irrelevance? ICABR Conference 2008

Soaring food prices and global grain shortages are bringing new pressures on governments, food companies and consumers to relax their longstanding resistance to genetically engineered crops.

Prof. Kameswara Rao and Dr. T.M. Manjunath's Participation in 2008 Biotech Activities

Scrutinizing Industry-Funded Science: The Crusade Against Conflicts of Interest

LEADER: Nurturing nanotech

Center for Indigenous Knowledge for Agriculture and Rural Development

Scientists find potential schistosomiasis treatment

Islamic conference boosts S&T with new resolutions

Mexico publishes GM approval guidelines

Uganda 'close to stamping out Hib meningitis'

New method 'prevents spread of GM plants'

Social factors 'help women with post-tsunami stress'

Women scientists celebrated in new charter

Sub-Saharan Africa news in brief: 13–25 March

Brazil creates US$18 million fund for young scientists

Health weeks 'powerful tools' for deworming children

Rotavirus vaccine, not treatment, 'cheaper for Panama'