POSTED: MAR 26, 2007

The so-called "food vs. fuel" argument has received much attention recently. The media coverage, unfortunately, has been less than thorough, giving credibility to some scare tactics and allowing misconceptions to go unclarified.

ACE has created these talking points to help grassroots ethanol advocates better understand and communicate the truths of food and fuel.

Not an either-or scenario
- The so-called "food vs. fuel" wrongly asserts that a choice must be made between corn for food and corn for ethanol; in reality, the U.S. corn supply is ample enough to satisfy the needs of food, fuel, and feed markets.
- There are limits on how much corn can and should be used for ethanol, but the marketplace is best equipped to make the determination.

Misunderstanding corn for human consumption
- Many don't realize that corn for ethanol and corn for human consumption are two different types. Field corn, the type used to feed livestock, goes into ethanol production. Sweet corn, a very small portion of the U.S. crop, is the type eaten by humans.
- Critics routinely overstate how much corn is consumed as human food; in reality, less than 10 percent of the U.S. corn crop is annually used for human food in the form of sweeteners, cereals, etc.
- Corn's customers, in order, historically have been: the livestock sector, export markets, processors (including ethanol), and lastly, humans.
- Those spinning the "food vs. fuel" debate suggest that U.S. corn exports go directly to feed the malnourished in developing countries and that ethanol directly removes food from those in need. In reality, the majority of corn exports from the U.S. are used to feed livestock in developed countries.
- There is more food per capita today on a global scale than ever before, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Lack of infrastructure, access to capital, political instability, and other issues are the more likely causes of hunger than scarcity of food.

Increasing yields and acreage
- Farmers base planting decisions upon market signals. High demand and strong prices for corn will lead to increased corn acreage, providing larger supplies for food, feed, and fuel.
- The livestock sector's demand for corn has been relatively flat over the last decade, as has the corn used for non-ethanol industrial processing. Corn exports have trended up only slightly. Because these other demand categories shows signs of only limited future growth, it is expected that the additional corn supply from higher yields and more acres will be available for biofuels production.
- Continual technology innovations allow ethanol producers to squeeze more ethanol out of each bushel of corn. Ten years ago, a bushel of corn delivered 2 gallons of ethanol; today that same bushel yields nearly 3 gallons of ethanol.

The role of distillers grain
- The important role of distillers grain is often overlooked. Dry-mill ethanol production uses only the corn's starch, leaving the protein, fats, and fiber left as distillers grain, a valuable feed product for livestock markets.
- Ethanol production does not remove protein from the food supply because this protein, highly valued in world food and feed markets, is passed through in the form of distillers grain.

Expanding into cellulosic feedstocks
- The ethanol industry recognizes that corn has multiple important uses and that the industry must seek alternative feedstocks as it expands.
- Cellulosic ethanol can be made from feedstocks that do not have direct use as food, such as corn stalks, grain straw, switchgrass, wood chips, etc.
- These cellulosic feedstocks will be a game-changing transformation that will make our nation more energy secure and will ensure harmony among corn's customers.

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