17 May, 2021

Guzzle Grain, Go Hungry

The move to let ­damaged crops be used for ­fossil fuel production may hurt food availability, price

Salvaging from grain left to rot due to lack of storage in Punjab
Photograph by AP
Guzzle Grain, Go Hungry

A little over a decade ago, India’s first national biofuel policy categorically stated that ‘fuel vs. food security’ was not relev­ant in its context as “bio-ethanol is produced mai­nly from molasses, a byproduct of the sugar ind­ustry. In future too, it would be ens­ured that the next generation of technologies is based on non-food feedstocks”. On May 16, however, the Narendra Modi-led cabinet, approved a new biofuel policy that “expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by all­owing use of sugarcane juice, sugar containing materials like sugar beet, sweet sorghum, starch containing mat­erials like corn, cass­ava, damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, rotten potatoes unfit for human consumption, for ethanol production.”

So, is the new policy a negation of the earlier assurance on the food-secur­ity-versus-fuel debate?

This policy seeks to justify the switch by stating that “farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate prices for their produce during the surplus...

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