As the crop-based biofuels industry continues to grow, pressures on agricultural land are increasing all over the world. In some developing countries, diverting the use of valuable farmland for biofuel production is proving to be detrimental to the food supply. The latest example is in Guatemala, where soaring food prices, driven partly by biofuel demand, have doubled the cost of tortillas.
Due to the effects of US/EU policies, larger farms and industrial producers are using much of Guatemala’s cropland to produce sugar cane, African palm and other crops to meet increased global demand for biofuel. The crops are mostly owned by companies that export bioethanol to Europe. Consequently, subsistence farmers are now facing a shortage of agricultural land.
Biofuel development has left the average Guatemalan, whose diet includes a lot of corn, facing food shortages and soaring food prices. According to an Iowa State University study, US biofuel policy added 17 percent to global corn prices in 2011. Three years ago, one quetzal (about 15 cents) could buy eight tortillas; today it can buy only four. It is similar with other basic foods such as eggs, as the production ultimately depends on corn. According to United Nations, Guatemala has the fourth-highest rate of chronic child malnutrition in the world, with 49.8 percent of children under 5 being underweight.
Lead Photo by Bread for the World/Flickr