It’s Time for America to Lead on the Coming Food Crisis: Ethanol Mandates & Global Food Supply

July 11, 2013

In recent weeks, two separate researchers– Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute and Timothy Searchinger from Princeton University – have both found a significant link between government-mandated ethanol production and food scarcity.

Meanwhile, current global food trends point to increased difficulties in feeding the world in upcoming years. A new study reveals that there won’t be enough food to feed the world by 2050. Closer to home, the U.S. Agriculture Department estimates that 101 million people – or nearly one in three Americans – are currently receiving food assistance of some kind.

It is clear that a looming food crisis is drawing nearer, and anti-hunger groups like ActionAid and OxFam are calling for the reform of ethanol mandates to help ease the impact.

Today, the environment committee  of the European Union—considered an extremely influential body within EU parliament — has voted to cap conventional biofuels consumption from 10 to 5.5 percent of total fuel consumption by 2020. The decision was attributed to research that links biofuels production to detrimental land-use change and rising food prices.

Europe is stepping up to the challenge and it’s time for America to take the lead.

Sign this petition if you think America needs to act and end the detrimental practice of converting food to fuel.

Interested in learning more? Here are three ways corn ethanol production impacts the price, quality, and access to food around the world.

It Increases Food Prices.

Converting food into fuel has a direct impact on the global corn supply. To meet the increasing ethanol volumes mandated by the RFS, the United States converted 40 percent of its corn crop in 2011, or 13.95 billion gallons—enough to feed 570 million people that year. On a smaller scale, the grain required to fill a 25-gallon fuel tank with ethanol just once would feed one person for an entire year. This scale of production dramatically increases corn demand, ultimately increasing corn prices for consumers.

It Decreases Food Consumption.

The diversion of corn crops to fuel production also results in substantial reductions in food consumption. According to analysis by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), of every 100 net calories from wheat or maize diverted to ethanol, roughly 25 are not replaced. Similarly, the EPA predicts that roughly 25% of the calories diverted to ethanol from maize would not be replaced in the food supply. This decreases the amount of corn available for food production and consumption.

It Directly Impacts the World’s Poorest.

The poor are most vulnerable to the rising food prices and decreasing food availability caused by corn ethanol production. Studies show that when food prices rise, wealthier people barely change their total food consumption, but individuals who devote half or more of their incomes to grocery bills often must reduce their food consumption out of necessity.  These developments add to the challenges already presented by rapidly growing demand for food globally. As the global population increases toward 9 billion by 2050, food grain consumption will grow at 40 million tons per year.