NEW YORK (Dow Jones)–Ethanol producers have launched a new organization, Growth Energy, to combat claims that the corn-based fuel has driven food prices upward.

The companies, including ethanol producers POET LLC and Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc. (GPRE) plant-builder ICM, said the group would be an aggressive voice in the energy debate. The companies will continue to be members of existing trade organizations such as the Renewable Fuels Association.

Growth Energy has launched an ad campaign and developed a policy brief, saying that ethanol isn't responsible for increased food prices.

“We believe that Growth Energy will be a new, fresh, aggressive voice in the energy debate,” said POET Chief Executive Jeff Broin, speaking at a press conference Tuesday. He said the group would drive the message of ethanol forward.

The companies say energy costs and factors outside of ethanol drove food prices upward. At the press conference, executives from the companies involved in Growth Energy said they were responding to a “smear campaign” from large food producers, who had blamed ethanol for rising food prices.

Growth Energy said its campaign comes at a time when corn prices have decreased by more than 50% and oil prices have been tumbling while food prices continue to soar.

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“From the lab to the farm, new innovations have allowed us to ramp up production year-after-year, without expanding our environmental footprint." - @EmilySkor, @GrowthEnergy CEO https://t.co/vxgFJhY4QZ #IowaAg #Agriculture #Iowa #Biofuels

via @IowaFarmBureau

Global Ethanol Summit Day 2: Participants from 60 countries will continue to discuss transport #energy solutions that make economic sense. Attendees will also hear from @USDA Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky about global collaboration and trade of #ethanol. #GES #Grains19 https://t.co/iTq9qFwmPl

via @USGC

#Ethanol association @GrowthEnergy appoints new chairman https://t.co/QVakHUgMJ1 https://t.co/lJ6yXJ4v8U

via @biofuelsmag

“My hope for you is that no one walks away from this meeting wondering if ethanol will work for your country,” said LeGrand. “The answer, as we hope to show, is yes.” https://t.co/jXrb4u3cip

via @USGC