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Ex-food chief: Crops for fuel is OK

May 5, 2008
In his five years as executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, Jim Morris saw global hunger from an uncomfortably close vantage point.

So, one might expect him to criticize the idea of turning corn and soybeans into alternative fuels. After all, the ethanol and biodiesel plants popping up in Indiana and elsewhere across the Midwest siphon food away from people who are starving to death at the rate of one every five seconds.

But thatâ??s not what he thinks.

Now president of the Indiana Pacers, Morris still believes food should be used to feed people before being turned into fuel, but he also thinks itâ??s moral to use food for fuels.

â??We have a fair balance,â?? he says. â??Itâ??s not an either-or situation.â??

Morris, who helped launch amateur sports in Indianapolis and once led Lilly Endowment, quickly adds caveats.

More countries need to get over their fears of biotech crops. Genetically engineered crops are hardier and have great potential to increase food production, he says, a notion China and India have begun to embrace but Africa still needs to learn.

And Morris says the food system needs massive investment. Nations need to rid themselves of price controls that dampen farmer incentives to produce. More land needs to be brought into production, and better roads are needed for hauling food and crops. More research into seeds and other technology is needed.

More research also will teach us to turn non-food crops into fuels.

Some steep caveats, maybe.

What do you think?
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