Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Filling Stomachs or Gas Tanks

While America's attention is riveted on politicians' hunger for power, the rest of the world is grappling with the threat of real starvation this week.

At a three-day summit of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is calling for "bold and urgent steps to address the root causes of this global food crisis."

"We have a historic opportunity to revitalize agriculture," Ban told 50 heads of state, pointing out that food output had to rise 50 percent by 2030 to meet rising demand that has pushed 100 million people into hunger worldwide.

Poorer countries are faced with a 40 percent increase in prices that has doubled their food bills in the past year. The FAO is calling for $1.7 billion of emergency funding to deal with the production shortage.

One of the issues being debated is how much the use of grain for biofuels is exacerbating the problem. Fuels from sugar cane, corn and other crops are seen as a way to combat climate change and rising oil prices, and the US has been heavily subsidizing corn-based ethanol production. Last year, the 27-nation European Union endorsed a plan calling for biofuels to make up 10 percent of the fuel for road vehicles by 2020.

But environmentalists and humanitarian groups claim that increased demand for biofuels is contributing by 15 to 30 percent to food price increases.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are reduced to watching people starve and sending checks to Oxfam and other organizations that are trying to save lives.

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