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Will the Press Set the Record Straight?

May 24, 2008
Last week, Roll Call revealed that the Grocery Manufacturers Association paid for a PR campaign aimed at blaming high food prices on biofuels (call it the ‘vast chicken wing conspiracy’). But since the revelation, there’s been very little effort in the press to set the record straight.
The USDA this week held a press conference to tell reporters the true causes of food price increases. And on Tuesday this week, Michael W. Masters, Managing Member and Portfolio Manager of Masters Capital Management, LLC, testified before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on whether institutional investors are contributing to food and energy price inflation:
Institutional investors are one of, if not the primary, factors affecting commodities prices today.
"When asked to explain this dramatic increase, economists’ replies typically focus on the diversion of a significant portion of the U.S. corn crop to ethanol production. What they overlook is the fact that Institutional Investors have purchased over 2 billion bushels of corn futures in the last five years. Right now, Index Speculators have stockpiled enough corn futures to potentially fuel the entire United States ethanol industry at full capacity for a year. That’s equivalent to producing 5.3 billion gallons of ethanol, which would make America the world’s largest ethanol producer.
"Turning to Wheat, in 2007 Americans consumed 2.22 bushels of Wheat per capita. At 1.3 billion bushels, the current Wheat futures stockpile of Index Speculators is enough to supply every American citizen with all the bread, pasta and baked goods they can eat for the next two years!"

So, what’s the solution? Purdue Agricultural Economist Dr. Chris Hurt told the Purdue Biofuels Symposium on Sunday May 18:
We must not throw out all the work that’s going on, the tremendous amount of research into cellulose, into increasing the yield ability of corn and the amount of ethanol we can get from that. Our fuel problems aren’t just going to go away. Agriculture needs support over the next several decades. That’s the message we all in agriculture want to get across. We’re into this now. We have huge potential. Let us continue to develop that potential.”

According to Alan Tracy, U.S. Wheat Alliance President, and Ron Suppes, USW Chairman,
Biotechnology is the best and most practical tool available to give the world the boost in agricultural productivity we must have to reduce starvation and environmental degradation. Continued mindless opposition to this applied science will only bring greater misery, poverty and environmental destruction to the world.
"The genetically modified crops now planted broadly across the U.S. require less herbicide and insecticide and consume less of the oil and energy it takes to make such pesticides. (Doesn't it just make sense to build an insecticide into a plant rather than broadcast one onto the whole field?) Engineered herbicide tolerance brings better weed control, which leads to less tillage, which uses less fuel and preserves both the soil and its capacity to store away carbon. Higher yields mean that less new cropland has to be found to meet the needs of a growing world population. That means less forest and jungle and savannah get destroyed along with their air purifying and carbon storing capacity. Biotechnologically derived saline tolerance is now on the near horizon, meaning that we will be able to reclaim croplands that have been abandoned. Modern biotechnology is roving to be one of the most important environmental advances that agricultural science has ever discovered."