Stop the biofuel madness

KAMARUL AKHIR/AFP/Getty Images As the “elite 8” wrapped up an 18-course dinner in Hokkaido earlier this week, members of the developing countries summit, or “D-8,” were also focusing on food — or rather, the lack of it. Leaders of member nations Indonesia and Malaysia spoke out Wednesday about the need to curb biofuel production. Indonesian ...

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594132_080709_d-8_summit5.jpg

KAMARUL AKHIR/AFP/Getty Images

As the "elite 8" wrapped up an 18-course dinner in Hokkaido earlier this week, members of the developing countries summit, or "D-8," were also focusing on food -- or rather, the lack of it. Leaders of member nations Indonesia and Malaysia spoke out Wednesday about the need to curb biofuel production. Indonesian Prime Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was blunt:

The idea is to reduce greenhouse gases and to wean themselves away from dependence on fossil fuels... It is not a good idea: it has only worsened the global food crisis."

KAMARUL AKHIR/AFP/Getty Images

As the “elite 8” wrapped up an 18-course dinner in Hokkaido earlier this week, members of the developing countries summit, or “D-8,” were also focusing on food — or rather, the lack of it. Leaders of member nations Indonesia and Malaysia spoke out Wednesday about the need to curb biofuel production. Indonesian Prime Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was blunt:

The idea is to reduce greenhouse gases and to wean themselves away from dependence on fossil fuels… It is not a good idea: it has only worsened the global food crisis.”

Yudhoyono knows a thing or two about this problem firsthand. Indonesia has lost vast swathes of rainforests due to the production of palm oil, an increasingly popular biofuel. But while a little hypocrisy might make his words ring hollow, it doesn’t make him wrong.

As FP‘s own Editor in Chief Moisés Naím tells us, increased food demand from developing countries is hardly to blame for the global food crisis. The real culprit is biofuel production, he aruges, and the government policies that promote it at the expense of crops for human consumption. Biofuels may account for as much as 75 percent of the global increase in food prices since 2002, according to the latest World Bank estimate.

The G-8, to its credit, had something to say about the crisis. Problem is, as usual the group didn’t address the real policy problem — it only “requested” that developed countries open their food stockpiles. Quick fixes, though, aren’t going to feed the hungry for long. G-8 countries need to brainstorm feasible, long-term policies. Here’s a healthy start: Stop dumping millions of dollars into subsidizing biofuels before this man-made disaster spins out of control.

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