From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/15/us-corn-belt-farmers
As Congress reviews 30 years of corn ethanol subsidies, the global food crisis has shone a negative light on biofuel production
There were times when Arlyn Schipper could almost feel heroic on his family farm in the heart of America’s corn belt.
His 1,619 hectares (4,000 acres) in Iowa, planted almost entirely with corn, were helping to feed a nation – or at least help put fuel in its gas tanks, as his crop was processed into corn ethanol.
Schipper still sees it that way. It is just he feels America has moved on, or as he put it: “The country has turned on us.”
The US debt crisis, and the challenge of finding $1.3tn (£796bn) in budget cuts, has forced Congress to re-examine three decades of government subsidies for corn ethanol.
Drought and famine in the Horn of Africa have exposed further a negative consequence of biofuel production: the global food crisis. By competing with food crops for land, large-scale biofuel production has constricted supply and so boosted food prices across the world. This has led to a backlash against biofuels such as corn ethanol from environmentalists and development charities.
“Ten years ago this was the greatest thing since apple pie – ethanol. A lot of farmers invested in this, and a lot of farmers invested in ethanol plants. Everybody wanted it. Our country wanted it. It was a renewable resource,” said Schipper. “And now that we have got all of this money tied up in this, it’s kind of turned on us.”
Many will feel that corn farmers have had it pretty good. And the ethanol industry still has a mighty hold on America’s corn belt. America is projected to produce 14bn US gallons (53bn litres) of corn ethanol this year at 200 refineries across the midwest.
Continue reading at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/15/us-corn-belt-farmers
GM corn being developed for fuel instead of food
From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/15/gm-corn-development-food-fuel
Campaigners say plants being grown in US may worsen global food crisis, while farmers express cross-contamination fears
US farmers are growing the first corn plants genetically modified for the specific purpose of putting more ethanol in gas tanks rather than producing more food.
The food industry also opposes the new GM product because, although not inedible, it is unsuitable for use in the manufacture of food products that commonly use corn. Farmers growing corn for human consumption are also concerned about cross-contamination. The corn, developed by a branch of the Swiss pesticide firm Syngenta, contains an added gene for an enzyme (amylase) that speeds the breakdown of starches into ethanol. Ethanol plants normally have to add the enzyme to corn when making ethanol.
The Enogen-branded corn is being grown for the first time commercially on about 5,000 acres on the edge of America’s corn belt in Kansas, following its approval by the US Department of Agriculture last February. In its promotional material Syngenta says it will allow farmers to produce more ethanol from the corn while using less energy and water.
Meanwhile, campaigners say the corn will heap pressure on global food supplies and contribute to environmental degradation. They argue Enogen will lead to an increase in the amount of food crops going to fuel, leaving less for human consumption and leading to food price rises. That will lead to food price rises on the global market. “The temptation to look at food as another form of fuel to use for the energy crisis will exacerbate the food crisis,” said Todd Post of Bread for the World, a Christian anti-hunger organisation.
Continue reading at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/15/gm-corn-development-food-fuel