If you’ve managed to catch any news other than the Olympics in the last few weeks, you might well have read about the current drought in the US that is sending corn prices rocketing. But maybe more shocking than the scale of the drought – its already affecting almost 80 per cent of US farm land – is the fact that, despite this massive threat to food supplies, the vast majority of America’s corn crop will be turned into fuel instead of food.
Yes, even in the face of corn prices rising more than 50% since the beginning of June, the great American god – the car – is prioritised above people under a US law that requires their petrol includes an increasing proportion biofuel.
It’s not just US corn prices that are going up. The US is the largest exporter of corn, which means corn price rises are being felt around the world. As corn prices rocket, so for example, the price of meat is set to go up because of the rising cost of animal feed. And the price of other crops is going up too, because of increased demand to fill the gap left by corn.
And of course, given that they already spend up to 80% of their household budget on food and have the least amount to spare, it is the poorest around the world who are most affected.
As Jewo Jallow from the Gambia told us, when food prices rise, she is forced to reduce family meals “from 3 meals to 2 meals per day or sometimes I would go without food to allow my children to eat. Another challenge for me is I find it difficult to pay for my children’s school fees and if they are driven from school because of non-payment of fees it will definitely affect their education”.
There are many factors contributing to the global food prices - climate change is affecting crops around the world, the world population continues to grow, and growing affluence has led to increasing demand for food, including those such as meat which take more resources to produce. And some are harder to tackle than others. But ending support for biofuels, which as well as being a major cause of global price rises, also leads to land grabbing and increased emissions of green gases would be a great start.
World leaders, in town for the Olympics, will be meeting at Downing Street this Sunday to discuss world hunger. This is a great move. But it will take more than one meeting. That's why we're asking David Cameron to commit to make hunger a priority issue when the UK government hosts the G8 next year. There is a lot of talk of an Olympic legacy. Could there be any better legacy than kick-starting a process where world leaders commit to a real and lasting plan of action to address world hunger.