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A dark side to the ethanol boom?

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Another downside to corn ethanol, according to a BBC report, is that land which until recently was growing crops for food is now growing crops for fuel:

"The United Nations says a third of the total US maize [corn] crop went for ethanol last year. The International Monetary Fund says there's no question that demand for biofuels is driving up food prices – and that it will go on doing so…."

UN officials are cautious about such predictions, but they do acknowledge the problem, reports Reuters. According to UN Environment Program executive director Achim Steiner:

"… there is significant potential and risk for competition between food production and production for a global biofuels market…. We have to be aware that there are risks, and for some countries those risks may not be worth taking."

In the United States, the push for corn ethanol already has boosted food prices – everything from a dinner entree to the popcorn families munch at the latest "Harry Potter" movie. "Higher corn prices have boosted the cost of producing beef, poultry and thousands of processed products," writes columnist John Wasik of Bloomberg.com:

"Food prices have climbed an average of $47 per person due to the ethanol surge since last July, according to an Iowa State University study published in May; corn-price futures reached a 10-year high of $4.28 a bushel in February. All told, ethanol has cost Americans an additional $14 billion in higher food prices."
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