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The latest edition of the World Bank’s Food Price Watch arrived in my inbox the other day and it was a helpful reminder that, while the world’s attention is focused on the Horn of Africa, there are still millions of people in other parts of the world who are at risk of going hungry or sinking back in to poverty because of high food prices. Providing emergency food aid in the face of famine and extreme drought is relatively easy (unless there are rebels with guns in the way, admittedly). But what about the hard steps that could reduce the probability of the next emergency happening, or at least mitigate its consequences?
Why wait for a concept paper to be delivered next year before pushing the World Food Program to implement hedging strategies “to optimize food procurements and maximize the purchasing power of financial resources?” even wait for the summit in November? Why don’t G-20 leaders with representatives on WFP’s board instruct management to move on the idea immediately, using CGD’s proposals as the template?
Why ignore biofuel subsidies altogether? Why not agree to suspend all subsidies immediately while the Global Bioenergy Partnership works on the sustainability indicators that the G-20 agricultural ministers endorsed in their June communique?
And two for President Obama:
Since the new World Bank report shows that the highest year-over-year price increase is for corn, more than 80 percent, why hasn’t your Environmental Protection Agency waived the mandate for blending ethanol in gasoline? Does it really make sense that more than half of U.S. corn goes into our fuel tanks rather than onto our plates—and the plates and bowls of hungry people around the world?
More important, you’ve said that you care about addressing climate change but have been stymied by Congress. So why would you even consider approving the Keystone pipeline and making some of the dirtiest, most environmentally and economically expensive oil around viable to produce? Have you thought about the consequences for the poor and the future generations that will pay the price?