Three weeks ago, the Guardian’s Aditya Chakrabortty published "the biofuels report they didn’t want you to read": the research paper from the World Bank’s Don Mitchell saying that 75% of the rise in global food prices could be attributed to biofuels. He said at the time:
Prompted by the Guardian’s report, the Bank may now push the report out – although it may not be in quite this form. We’d rather you saw the original, which is why
we’re publishing it today, here.
The combination of higher energy prices and related increases in fertilizer prices
and transport costs, and dollar weakness caused food prices to rise by about 35-40
percentage points from January 2002 until June 2008. These factors explain 25-30
percent of the total price increase, and most of the remaining 70-75 percent increase in
food commodities prices was due to biofuels and the related consequences of low grain
stocks, large land use shifts, speculative activity and export bans.
And here’s how the original report phrased things:
The decline of the dollar has contributed perhaps 20 percent to the rise in food prices. Thus, the combination of higher energy prices and related increases in fertilizer prices, and dollar weakness caused food prices to rise by about 35
percent from January 2002 until February 2008 and the remainder of the 140 percent actual increase was probably due to biofuels and the related consequences of low grain
stocks, large land use shifts, speculative activity, and export bans.
I can’t say that I see any evidence of censorship here. After all, like all World Bank working papers, it carries the standard disclaimer:
The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the
authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development/World Bank and its affiliated organizations, or those of the Executive Directors of the World Bank
or the governments they represent.
According to Chakrabortty, World Bank president Bob Zoellick tried to suppress publication of the report – something which, if true, probably only served to draw further attention to it. In any case, it’s now out, in its full technicolor 21-page glory, and people can make up their own minds as to how persuasive it is.