As Biofuel Demand Grows, So Do Guatemala’s Hunger Pangs

06 Jan

A very informative and important article in this morning’s New York Times about how the increasing use of biofuels (mainly ethanol) in developed countries (mainly the U.S, and Europe) can cause hardships in developing countries by driving up food prices. Read the complete NYT article here.

Here are some choice extracts from the article:

“Recent laws in the United States and Europe that mandate the increasing use of biofuel in cars have had far-flung ripple effects, economists say, as land once devoted to growing food for humans is now sometimes more profitably used for churning out vehicle fuel.

In a globalized world, the expansion of the biofuels industry has contributed to spikes in food prices and a shortage of land for food-based agriculture in poor corners of Asia, Africa and Latin America because the raw material is grown wherever it is cheapest.

Nowhere, perhaps, is that squeeze more obvious than in Guatemala, which is “getting hit from both sides of the Atlantic,” in its fields and at its markets, said Timothy Wise, a Tufts University development expert who is studying the problem globally with Actionaid, a policy group based in Washington that focuses on poverty.

With its corn-based diet and proximity to the United States, Central America has long been vulnerable to economic riptides related to the United States’ corn policy. Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn.”


Sugar cane is one of the main sources of biofuel, and, as a demand increase in the US and Europe for biofuel to reduce auto emissions, the planting of sugar cane increases. But often at a cost of local food supplies, such as corn. Which is the case in Guatemala. (NY Times photo)

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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Latin America


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