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IMF’s Strauss-Kahn: Biofuels pose a moral problem

Biofuels pose a moral problem and the worst of rioting prompted by soaring food costs may be yet to come, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, said on Friday.

“When we make biofuels from agricultural products not used for food that is fine. But when they are made from food products, this poses a major moral problem,” Strauss-Kahn told Europe 1 radio station on Friday. Asked if he would support a possible moratorium on biofuels, Strauss-Kahn said: “When they use foodstuffs.” Countries needed to strike a balance between addressing environmental problems and the need to ensure people did not perish from hunger, he said, saying protests sparked by rising food costs around the globe could worsen. “In terms of food-related riots, the worst is unfortunately possibly in front of us,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of people are going to be affected.” Food shortages and sky-rocketing costs have set off rioting and protests in countries including Haiti, Cameroon, Niger and Indonesia and deeper questioning of first-generation biofuels made from food crops. Turning to the question of aid, he said it was crucial to mobilize resources rapidly to help affected countries.

The World Food Program could help in the short-term, but could not be relied on given cash earmarked for food imports would not change the quantity of wheat available, he said. “What is needed therefore is to raise agricultural production,” he said. French President Nicolas Sarkozy also weighed into the debate over food prices, saying the current crisis called not only for an immediate response but also for an ambitious to support agriculture.

Speaking at an environmental conference, Sarkozy said he would propose a global partnership for food and agriculture, with greater co-ordination needed among international financial institutions, governments and the private sector to €60 million ($95.75 million) this year. (Reuters)