In 1974-2005 food prices on world markets fell by three-quarters in real terms … Since the spring, wheat prices have doubled and almost every crop under the sunâ€”maize, milk, oilseeds, you name itâ€”is at or near a peak in nominal terms. The Economist’s food-price index is higher today than at any time since it was created in 1845 … the Chinese consumer who ate 20kg (44lb) of meat in 1985 will scoff over 50kg of the stuff this year. That in turn pushes up demand for grain: it takes 8kg of grain to produce one of beef. But the rise in prices is also the self-inflicted result of America’s reckless ethanol subsidies. This year biofuels will take a third of America’s (record) maize harvest. That affects food markets directly: fill up an SUV’s fuel tank with ethanol and you have used enough maize to feed a person for a year. And it affects them indirectly, as farmers switch to maize from other crops. The 30m tonnes of extra maize going to ethanol this year amounts to half the fall in the world’s overall grain stocks.