Unintended consequences

Let’s see . . . biofuels are good, right?

Not so fast[*1] . . .

Soaring food prices, driven in part by demand for ethanol made from corn, have helped slash the amount of food aid the government buys to its lowest level in a decade, possibly resulting in more hungry people around the world this year.

The United States, the world’s dominant donor, has purchased less than half the amount of food aid this year that it did in 2000, according to new data from the Department of Agriculture.

“The people who are starving and have to rely on food aid, they will suffer,” Jean Ziegler, who reports to the United Nations on hunger and food issues, said in an interview this week.

Corn prices have fallen in recent months, but are still far higher than they were a year ago. Demand for ethanol has also indirectly driven the rising price of soybeans, as land that had been planted with soybeans shifted to corn. And wheat prices have skyrocketed, in large part because drought hurt production in Australia, a major producer, economists say.

So, go ahead and feel virtuous using your ethanol and E-85, knowing that what you’re burning in your car might otherwise have gone to feed the poorest people in the world.

Here’s an idea–let markets decide what we burn as fuel and what we eat as food, not governments and for Christ’s sake, not the U.N.

Hat tip:  Instapundit[*2]