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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