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Food versus fuel: Is biofuel production to blame for our present food shortage?

AMARILLO, Texas (West Texas Catholic) - According to a Catholic News Service report, recent protests over rising food prices have highlighted the controversy over biofuels such as ethanol made from corn or diesel fuel made from vegetable oils.

Though some are quick to blame the manufacture of biofuels for an increase in food prices to the world’s most impoverished, local farmer and Chairman of the U.S. Grains Council, Dale Artho, disagrees.

“The claim that ethanol is the reason for rising food prices is misleading at best,” he said. He pointed to a recent study by the Texas Agri-Life Extension Service, indicating a total waiver of the Renewable Fuel Standard would reduce corn prices by only 30 cents per bushel — a 5 to 8 percent decrease, he says, based on current prices. That study is available at www.afpc.tamu.edu.

“We need to look no further than the skyrocketing energy costs to find where the true increases in food prices begin,” Artho said.

“Consumers are hit with a double whammy. Oil at more than $115 per barrel not only drives up fuel prices but prices at the grocery store. Production, distribution, manufacturing and packaging costs—escalated by the price of oil—play a much bigger role in rising food costs than the price of corn,” he said.

“The skyrocketing price of oil, surging global demand for grains and meat, poor harvests in key production areas around the globe, and a weakened U.S. dollar are the real factors determining world grain and food prices,” he said. “The production and use of ethanol, while increasing demand for corn & sorghum, is not contributing significantly to food price escalation. It is, however, helping to keep oil prices lower than they might otherwise be,” he said, which has the indirect affect of lowering prices of all commodities that have to be delivered.

“The food versus fuel debate affects Christians in an intrinsic and intimate way,” Artho said, “because food is an integral part of our life with Jesus. Scripture is full of examples of the sanctity of food: Abel offering the lamb, Melchizedek offering bread and wine, massa and quail in the desert during the Exodus, Jesus giving us His body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharistic celebration of the Last Supper.

“Jesus taught us the importance of food in our spiritual and everyday life,” he said. “We have been taught not to waste food but instead to appreciate food as the fuel of life. How we use food is an indicator of our Catholicity.”

Artho is a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Vega. He is Chairman of the U.S. Grains Council, a private, non-profit organization dedicated to building export markets for barley, corn, sorghum and their products. The Council is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has nine international offices and active market development programs in more than 50 countries.

Artho is also President of the Board of Directors of Catholic Radio of the Texas High Plains, which owns and operates St. Valentine Catholic Radio, KDJW 1360 AM in Amarillo.

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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of The West Texas Catholic (www.westtexascatholic.org), official newspaper of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas.

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1 - 1 of 1 Comments

  1. Paul May
    6 years ago

    It would be interesting to see some hard figures on how using 25% or more of the corn production in this country to make ethanol is actually holding down the price of oil. also, is such an artificial conversion of so much of our farmland to non food use wise now and for the future?

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