Foods Hijacked by Ethanol: It's Not Just Corn

Starchy cassava roots are the latest crop to be used for renewable energy—and consumers are facing steeper prices

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It's bad enough that corn is grown for ethanol, but cassava? Many populations depend on cassava for food.

According to today's New York Times, cassava is the new "go to" crop to burn for fuel. Doing this, of course, makes cassava more expensive than what people can afford:

It can be tricky predicting how new demand from the biofuel sector will affect the supply and price of food. Sometimes, as with corn or cassava, direct competition between purchasers drives up the prices of biofuel ingredients. In other instances, shortages and price inflation occur because farmers who formerly grew crops like vegetables for consumption plant different crops that can be used for fuel.

The Times graph of the increase in use of food for biofuel is sobering:


The rise in food prices has stopped temporarily, but prices are still an astonishing 37 percent higher than a year ago, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization

None of this makes sense to me. We need a sensible food policy and a sensible energy policy.



This post also appears on Food Politics.
Image: Jorge Silva/Reuters

Presented by

Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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