Spotlight G20: More Fodder for the Food Price Debates: Ethanol, speculation drove prices

From TripleCrisis

Timothy A. Wise, part of our 2011 Spotlight G20 series

As the G20 takes its November meetings into the belly of the eurozone crisis, its food security agenda drifts toward irrelevance. Or worse. Early promises to address commodity speculation and market volatility have given way to tepid recommendations from G20 agricultural ministers in June and last month’s underwhelming communiqué from its Washington meeting on development, with its one snappy paragraph on food security issues. Now that finance ministers on their gilded steeds have turned and fled from the dragons of commodity speculation, the G20 is unlikely to slay any of the monsters threatening global food security – biofuels expansion, land grabs, speculation, price volatility, low public investment.

Fortunately, new research keeps coming, and it should inform the debate. The latest is from a group of researchers at New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI). As their name would indicate, these are modelers, and their paper, “The Food Crises: A quantitative model of food prices including speculators and ethanol conversion,” offers evidence that the underlying cause of rising food prices over the last decade is primarily the US corn ethanol program, while the cause of the two recent price spikes is speculation.

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