A secret report written by Don Mitchell, a senior economist with World Bank, details the impact of government mandated use of biofuels and rising food costs and shortages.
“Without the increase in biofuels, global wheat and maize stocks would not have declined appreciably and price increases due to other factors would have been moderate,” says the report. The basket of food prices examined in the study rose by 140% between 2002 and this February. The report estimates that higher energy and fertiliser prices accounted for an increase of only 15%, while biofuels have been responsible for a 75% jump over that period.
It argues that production of biofuels has distorted food markets in three main ways. First, it has diverted grain away from food for fuel, with over a third of US corn now used to produce ethanol and about half of vegetable oils in the EU going towards the production of biodiesel. Second, farmers have been encouraged to set land aside for biofuel production. Third, it has sparked financial speculation in grains, driving prices up higher.
The report contradicts White House arguments relating food prices to an upsurge in developing nations by showing that increased wealth has not accounted for a corresponding increase in consumption. The report was completed in April but has been withheld to avoid George Bush as he goes into the G8 summit meetings next week in Japan.
Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.
“It would put the World Bank in a political hot-spot with the White House,” said one yesterday.
The news comes at a critical point in the world’s negotiations on biofuels policy. Leaders of the G8 industrialised countries meet next week in Hokkaido, Japan, where they will discuss the food crisis and come under intense lobbying from campaigners calling for a moratorium on the use of plant-derived fuels.
Start planting those fruit and nut trees now.