Food Fight: Is Corn Food or Fuel?


Ed Zurga for The New York Times

We quote from our review of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma "If you eat industrially, you are made of corn. It holds together your McNuggets, it sweetens your soda pop, it fattens your meat, it is everywhere. It is fed to us in many forms, because it is cheap- a dollar buys you 875 calories in soda pop but only 170 in fruit juice. A McDonalds meal was analyzed as almost entirely corn." At the same time, we are in the middle of a corn/ethanol gold rush. The Earth Policy Institute says that 79 ethanol plants are under construction, which would more than double ethanol production capacity to 11 billion gallons by 2008. (and more than the industry admits) "This unprecedented diversion of corn to fuel production will affect food prices everywhere," Said Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute and TreeHugger contributor.From the New York Times:

With spot prices of corn soaring to record highs of nearly $4 a bushel last month, farmers are expected to plant some 85 million acres of corn this year, an increase of 8 percent over 2006 and what would be the largest corn-seeding in the country since 1985, said Dan Basse, president of AgResource, an agricultural research company in Chicago.

Ethanol has raised the incomes of farmers and given new hope to flagging rural economies. But the reliance on corn to produce ethanol in the United States has drawn concerns from some economists, who question whether the drive to corn-based fuel will push up the prices of livestock and retail prices of meat, poultry and dairy products.

Mr. Brown is among those who believe the ethanol industry is growing too quickly. He called for a federal moratorium on the licensing of new distilleries. "We need a time out, a chance to catch our breath and decide how much corn can be used for ethanol without raising food prices," he said Thursday.

Like many other experts, he advocates moving past corn-based ethanol into cellulosic ethanol, produced from plant waste and nonfood crops like switch grass. ::New York Times

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