This Friday, as we honor World Food Day, we are reminded of a harsh reality: what should be a basic human right is inaccessible to many.
As it stands, there are 805 million people globally who live with chronic hunger, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. While natural disasters and human conflict contribute heavily to this unacceptable reality, they aren’t the only factors responsible. Broken government policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which undermine food security through market distortion, play a significant part in contributing to world hunger as well.
Because the RFS dictates we blend massive amounts of biomass-derived additives into our fuel supply, Congress mandates we meet certain ethanol production targets that increase every year, ultimately reaching 36 billion gallons by 2022. In order to meet these impossibly high ethanol requirements, more and more farmland is being re-allocated to growing crops for biomass-based biofuels instead of food. In fact, more than 40 percent of the U.S. corn harvest is now devoted to feeding our gas tanks, instead of our people. With less agricultural resources available for food production, food prices rise for those of us who eat—that is, every single one of us—but the poorest populations are the most adversely affected by high food prices.
This problem extends beyond food prices for U.S. consumers. Because many countries import corn to eat, the issue becomes inescapable on a global scale. ActionAid reported that from 2006 until 2011, corn-importing countries paid $11.6 billion in higher corn prices due to U.S. ethanol mandates. Developing nations bore the brunt of this cost, spending $6.6 billion. In turn these costs are passed to the nations’ most vulnerable populations, who already spend 60 to 80 percent of their income on food. And, as more countries follow America’s biofuels policy lead and dedicate more agricultural resources to bio-based fuel production, small landholders are often displaced from their land and left without the resources they need to feed themselves, their families and their communities.
With so many barriers to food access, waiting is not an option. Now is the time to address the problem.
It’s one thing to talk about ending world hunger; it’s another to do something about it. Tell your legislators to reform or repeal the RFS and bring us one step closer to making food more accessible to everyone.