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Food vs Fuel

The Beeb, well, the American Beeb, the Cnut, is talking about the food riots that are beginning to spread throughout the poor World. The article itself is light on analysis and facts, but there are a couple of sections that pop out:

The issue is also fueling a rising debate over how much the rising prices can be blamed on ethanol production. The basic argument is that because ethanol comes from corn, the push to replace some traditional fuels with ethanol has created a new demand for corn that has thrown off world food prices.

Of course, this is trivially true: when corn can be more profitably turned into fuel than soda, it will be. But it doesn’t really matter that the corn is becoming ethanol rather than the synthetic substrate of computer chips. What is going on is merely the logic of commodities: corn-as-commodity is not food. We confuse ourselves by thinking that this is what it is. It is the objectified urge of millions (hundreds?) of consolidated farmers and corporations to make a buck. They don’t give a shit whether their corn is eaten; they only care that it is sold. CNN would do well to bring this little issue of the contradiction of treating an essential need, like food, as a commodity to the fore.

Then there was this paragraph:

The contrived food vs. fuel debate has reared its ugly head once again,” the Renewable Fuels Association says on its Web site, adding that “numerous statistical analyses have demonstrated that the price of oil — not corn prices or ethanol production — has the greatest impact on consumer food prices because it is integral to virtually every phase of food production, from processing to packaging to transportation.”

Again, this is trivially true: transportation is a significant factor in the cost of our food. The infrastructure that both produces and distributes it is rotten. But why is it rotten? Well, to get at that you have to engage in a bit of reflection. The Cnut doesn’t seem to be up to the task.

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