Friday, October 28, 2011

Food vs. Fuel - Myth or Reality?

From time to time debates happen among varying ideologies that sometimes work people into a frenzy without those people first stopping to think if a problem actually exists.  One such debate is the food versus fuel discussion.  It goes something like this (yes, I know I'm painting in broad strokes here):

Team Food:  Corn is in so many of the products we use, consume, and feed, now we are using it to make ethanol to add to gasoline.  We have to stop or curb the amount of ethanol we produce for fuel, otherwise we will run out of food.  Also, ethanol messes up small engines.

Team Fuel:  Corn is a renewable resource, and if we need more of it, we can grow more of it (some would argue here thanks to subsidies--a great discussion for another time).  Ethanol is a viable alternative energy source, one that we can grow so that we are not giving money to the terrorists.  Without ethanol, gas prices would be even higher, thereby make the terrorists richer.  Stop terrorism, demand ethanol.  Oh yeah, if your engine is messing up, try changing your plugs or filters every once in a while.

So obviously I've exaggerated some here, but often these debates (like so many) get framed in an either/or category.  I'm going to suggest rather than this being an either/or argument, it's a both/and.  Yes, we can both have the proverbial cake (fuel) and eat it too (food).

How does this work?  Well, it has to do with what part of the plant, or kernel, is being used for what.  Rather than boring you with a lengthy typed out explanation, I will supply you with links to check out for yourself.

First, is a video clip discussing the food vs. fuel debate.  Feel free to watch the entire show (show # 706), but the segment dedicated to this specific discussion is from minute 1:12 to 4:40.  They give a brief overview of the debate and discuss the process of ethanol production from corn, which part goes to fuel, and which part goes to feed.

And here are additional links covering multiple angles on this issue, with some discussing additional alternative energy sources.

This is a debate that's been had, is happening now, and will continue to have into the future.  Is there a food vs. fuel problem?  I don't think so.  Is there a lot of propaganda out there?  Most likely.  Will we run out of food?  Not as long as we continue to be responsible stewards of the land entrusted us.  Will we run out of fuel?  Not likely anytime soon.  Shouldn't we seek alternatives to oil that are cheaper and more environmentally friendly and stop terrorism?  Absolutely!  Ever wonder why the oil companies are so opposed to alternative energy?  $$$  Ever stopped to think about, even with $3 plus gasoline, how little we spend on food & fuel in the United States as part of our total overall expenses?  Most probably haven't, but more and more are beginning to.

As with any discussion, let our thinking be guided by sound science, common sense, and realistic ideology before instituting or instilling  unnecessary fear, policy, regulation, or law.  This much I think we can all agree on.   If we can agree on this, then we can begin having healthy discussions and debates that go beyond protesters posters and CNN sound bites.

As always your thoughts are welcome.  Thanks!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Responses to Food Inc.

Harvest is in full swing so I haven't posted anything lately, though I did want to get this information on here for anyone who may be interested.  I recently briefly mentioned the popular documentary "Food Inc."  Attached are two links that give an opposing perspective to this documentary.  As I said earlier, "Food Inc." is a fine production that is visually stimulating, articulate, and professionally produced.  (It looks good on television, unlike some doc's that look they were filmed by a 6 year old with a camcorder from the 80's - looking at you Blair Witch.)  

If you have not yet seen "Food Inc.", check it out.  It can be streamed free on Netflix, or most video stores should have a copy to rent.  It worth 2 hours of your time.  Also worth a little bit of your time is considering reading the two links posted below in response to "Food Inc."  Don't watch/read one without the other.  Considering the importance of food, where our food comes from, and who produces the food we eat, I think it's only fair to consider both viewpoints before making rash conclusions.  Also good to remember about documentaries (and I love watching them) are these wise words from blogger Justin Taylor: 

I should confess at the front-end that I have mixed feelings about documentary-type films. On the one hand, when done well (here’s looking at you, Ken Burns!) they can be enormously entertaining and a vehicle for learning. On the other hand, you don’t have to be a film expert to know that the genre can be a conclusion in search of a film narrative (here’s looking at you, Michael Moore!). If you ask 100 people a question, it’s easy to edit it down to the 5 people who responded in the way that you wanted. And you can take those 5 people and edit their answers to advance the narrative even further.

The links:

I don't necessarily agree with each statement made via these two links, nor do I necessarily disagree with much of what is discussed in "Food Inc."  The point is for one to explore as much information as possible and make a reasoned, educated, realistic decision.  So, check these out, educate yourself, ask questions, buy local, eat food(s) in season, and visit a farm.  

Thanks again, and as always your thoughts and questions are welcomed.  Enjoy!