Fox News Latino: Biofuel Demands and Hunger Go Hand in Hand in Guatemala

January 18, 2013

Tracy López, Jan. 14- Next time you fill your vehicle up at the gas pump, you may be contributing to increasing hunger problems in Guatemala.

Corn tortillas, the daily bread of your average Central American, have become more costly, along with other staples such as eggs. The blame is being put on recent policies by the U.S. and Europe which require that biofuels, or fuels using renewable resources such as corn and sugar, be blended into the nation's fuel supply. Biofuel mandates are usually seen as environmentally friendly measures as they reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but in our increasingly connected world, there are often unforeseen effects on nations, communities and individuals around the globe.

A Guatemalan three years ago could pay one quetzal, the equivalent of about 15 cents, and receive eight tortillas; one quetzal now purchases half that amount. Because chickens eat corn feed, their eggs have also become expensive – three times more expensive than they used to be.

“The average Guatemalan is now hungrier because of biofuel development,” says Katja Winkler, a researcher at Idear, a Guatemalan nonprofit institute for agricultural and rural studies. According to the United Nations, about 50 percent of Guatemala's children are malnourished, and in the 2012 Global Hunger Index Report put out by International Food Policy Research Institute, Guatemala is the only country in Central America labeled “serious.” Other countries in the region are categorized as only being “low” or “moderate” regarding hunger.