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Biofuel production aggravates world hunger, instability, corporate CEO notes

Catholic World News - September 05, 2011

The chairman of the Nestlé corporation has his own special perspective on global-hunger problems. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal he is arguing for acceptance of genetically modified food. But in the process, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe makes an important point about agricultural production—specifically, the growing proportion of farming that is devoted to gasohol and various other biofuels, to be used by consumers in affluent countries:

If the price of our breakfast cereal goes up because we're diverting agricultural production to ethanol or biodiesel, it's an annoyance. But if the price of corn or flour doubles or triples in the Third World, where according to Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe people "are spending 80% of [their] disposable income on food," hundreds of millions of people go hungry. Sometimes, as in the Middle East earlier this year, they revolt.

"What we call today the Arab Spring," Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe says over lunch at Nestle's world headquarters, "really started as a protest against ever-increasing food prices."

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