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2008年6月 4日 (水)


(Jun. 4, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun

2nd-generation biofuel could solve food crisis

食糧サミット 第2世代バイオ燃料の推進を(6月4日付・読売社説)

How should the international community address the global food crisis and soaring international grain prices?


Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who is on a three-nation tour of Europe, spoke at the world food summit in Rome organized by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.


In his speech, Fukuda unveiled 50 million dollars in additional aid for poor nations, which will be spent to provide struggling farmers with seeds, machinery and fertilizer. He also urged nations that sell agricultural products to minimize export restrictions.


Fukuda stressed the need to promote second-generation biofuels made from timber taken from thinned forests and rice straw. He likely made this comment due to a recognition that the global increase of biofuel production is behind the worldwide hike in crop prices.


Currently, most biofuel is made from corn or sugarcane. The United States and Brazil--two major producers of the respective crops--have been increasing biofuel production every year.

Each year, the United States uses more than 80 million tons of corn, which represents about one-fourth of the country's total annual yield, to make biofuel.


To increase corn production to meet the demand for biofuel, U.S. farmers have reduced areas used to grow wheat and soybeans, which also has pushed up global crop prices.



Riots and political unrest


The price hikes have escalated into riots and political unrest in some developing countries, where people have found it impossible to afford basic foods.


Biofuels are useful in the fight against global warming, but about 24,000 people die of hunger everyday around the world due to food shortages. The burning of agricultural products as fuels must therefore be reconsidered.


Participating countries at the food summit should discuss measures to stem the increase in biofuel production using corn and sugarcane.

If second-generation biofuels can be produced at a low cost, it would kill two birds with one stone by improving global food security and cutting crude oil prices.

We hope nations around the world will accelerate their plans to put second-generation biofuels to practical use.




Demand on the rise


According to the FAO and related bodies, world grain production in 2008 is estimated to hit about 2.2 billion tons, up about 4 percent from the previous year. This means crop prices might even dip slightly in the short term.



But in the medium- to long-term, crop prices will not come down sharply. In the coming decade, the prices of rice and wheat likely will be 30 percent to 40 percent higher than average prices over the past 10 years.

The increase in prices has been attributed to that fact that demand in many countries, most notably China and India, has risen faster than production.


The world is facing major crises over food, energy and the environment. These three problems are intertwined, making it hard to solve them individually. The international community, therefore, needs to cooperate more closely than ever before to address this triumvirate of problems.



The Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama in late May and Fukuda's visits to Britain, Germany and Italy aimed to find ways to tackle these problems. The prime minister should now pave the way toward a solution to these difficult issues before the Group of Eight summit meeting is held in Hokkaido in July.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 4, 2008)

2008640132  読売新聞)


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