29 January 2008

If they ain't got you one way...

Given the West's recent history of food overproduction, it comes as something of a shock to discover that demand is now poised to outstrip supply and is driving up food prices.

Part of this is demand caused by China's increasing demand for imported food, but part is also due to the sudden embrace of ethanol and other biofuels by the farmers of Europe and North America. In the drive to find alternatives to fossil fuels, a lot of hope has been invested in biofuels; taking produce away from the tables and into our fuel tanks means a higher price for your daily corn flakes.

But at least the increased use of biofuels must be better for the environment, mustn't it? Except this week the Brazilian government announced that deforestation of the Amazon reached a record rate in the last five months of 2007. This surge in slash-and-burn has been caused by an explosion in ranching and farming caused by - you've guessed it - high grain prices.

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