One factor being blamed for the price hikes is the use of government subsidies to promote the use of corn for ethanol production. An estimated 30% of America's corn crop now goes to fuel, not food.
"I don't think anybody knows precisely how much ethanol contributes to the run-up in food prices, but the contribution is clearly substantial," a professor of applied economics and law at the University of Minnesota, C.Ford Runge, said. A study by a Washington think tank, the International Food Policy Research Institute, indicated that between a quarter and a third of the recent hike in commodities prices is attributable to biofuels.
Last year, Mr. Runge and a colleague, Benjamin Senauer, wrote an article in Foreign Affairs, "How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor."