That the drought in the U.S. will cause a rise in food prices is hardly news. However, scientists at the New England Complex Systems Institute are warning that the potential for a price spike has already been created by "misguided food-to-ethanol conversion programs and rampant commodity speculation." The drought will act as a "crop shock" causing the spike, originally predicted for 2013, to occur sooner "unless measures to curb ethanol production and rein in speculators are adopted immediately."
Commenting on the U.S. government's corn conversion to ethanol program, Institute President Yaneer Bar-Yam observed, "Given the possibility of price-driven famines, burning corn for cars is unconscionable."
American meat, dairy and poultry producers echo the Institute's concern, calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend this year's
quotas for corn ethanol production. (The EPA's renewable fuel program requires oil companies to dilute their gasoline with increasing amounts of biofuel
every year.) Randy Spronk, president of the National
Pork Producers Association, told reporters, "We are worried about having enough corn, soybean and other crops at any
price to feed our animals," while the president of the Minnesota
Turkey Growers' Association, John Burkel, warned, "Even the most prudent and cautious
producer could be put out of business."
Using a food crop to feed cars is questionable at the best of times—during a drought it is simply immoral.