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Published August 27, 2012, 09:35 AM

Ethanol's missed opportunity

There has been a powerful social taboo against wasting food since time began, and the myth that ethanol production wastes food overshadows all of its virtues, therefore threatening its existence.

By: Orrie Swayze, Agweek

WILMOT, S.D. — There has been a powerful social taboo against wasting food since time began, and the myth that ethanol production wastes food overshadows all of its virtues, therefore threatening its existence.

The ethanol industry can turn the food-for-fuel debate on its head by unlocking corn’s tremendous potential to end hunger.

Protein energy malnutrition is recognized as the most lethal form of hunger that plagues impoverished populations. All of us have seen pictures of children with bloated stomachs and small arms and legs. That is a condition defined as Kwashiorkor, typically most prominent in children after they stop nursing. In adults, this same protein deficiency leads to similar problems plus a lack of energy, vulnerability to disease and depression. On a per-acre basis, corn more than triples protein produced by wheat and approximates soybean protein production. A bushel of corn fed in animal rations typically produces nine pounds of meat containing 25 percent protein. A bushel of corn processed to ethanol more than doubles nine pounds of meat’s protein yield or nearly 18 pounds of 30 percent protein distillers grains that, importantly, can easily be blended into low-protein flours found in diets of impoverished populations.

South Dakota State University in Brookings has developed and tested a process to make distillers grains a bland, tasteless, acceptable protein supplement for the different baking flours used internationally. Commercialization of a portion of distiller’s grains for human consumption will provide a needed demonstration of corn’s tremendous nutritional capabilities that are unlocked when it is first processed to ethanol. Ethanol’s best opportunity to reach its full potential is to use promotional dollars to commercialize corn’s highest and best use or distillers grains as fungible high protein flours that will prove ethanol production is an important key to end hunger.

Supporting links:

•World hunger facts: www.

worldhunger.org/contributefood_hungermeaning.htm.

•A recent Wall Street Journal article (http://online.wsj.com) reports on SDSU research into the use of distillers dried grains with solubles for human consumption: “Can a food for cows make healthier Snickerdoodles?”

Editor’s Note: Swayze is from Wilmot, S.D.

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