Drivers leading to higher food prices: biofuels are not the main factor

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Abstract

Since 2007, the overall rise in food prices in the USA was twice that of the overall inflation rate, led by inflation for poultry and dairy products in particular. Prominent studies have indicated that the main drivers associated with the rise in food prices in the past 3 yr are the increased energy costs (and the trickle-down impact on farm input costs) and the devaluation of the US dollar. However, currently, the impact of crude oil as one of the primary drivers in food prices has waned significantly, as crude oil prices have fallen dramatically since late 2008. The data reviewed here debunk the popular myth that food producers, particularly farmers growing corn or soybean for biofuel feedstocks, are making huge profits with high commodity prices. Producers continue to face extraordinary risks in their farming operations, and profit margins have narrowed considerably because of the high input prices driven by high energy costs. One of the primary solutions to the food price inflation is to increase the supply of commodity crops in a responsible way that is both respectful and sustainable regarding economic, social, and environmental aspects. At the center of this solution is implementing and developing new technologies to increase crop yields and nutritional values without increasing the amount of fossil-based inputs used in agriculture. Conventional breeding, molecular breeding, genomics, and biotechnology are pivotal technologies for increasing crop yields to meet these supply needs, combined with the impacts of other new technologies and best management practices in agricultural production.

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