An Inconvenient Convergence

Appearing in mainstream media more and more frequently is coverage of the food riots that are breaking out across the globe. These sometimes violent riots reflect the food crisis that was, not long ago, a future prediction. Now, the global food crisis is upon us and is spurring debate, and creating very real consequences, about crop diversity, gas prices and biofuels, urbanization, global warming and environmental changes, and the concentrated food market. To put this numerically, the number of people who will suffer from the convergence of these factors is expected to rise from 850 million to 950 million. Food prices globally have seen an 83% increase. What follows are short overviews of some articles that seek to clarify the influence of these factors and what can be done to lessen their impact.

Two very important factors in the crisis are crop diversity and the reliance on imported food. Less crop diversity makes countries vulnerable to problems of supply and demand, which is playing out now in Latin and South America. Compounding the problem is the reliance of many countries on imported food, which was cheap, but only until recently.People are now calling for the recovery of crop diversity, and, in the process, preserving knowledge and improving nutrition. Read the full article here.

Many compartmentalize the food crisis into these neat categories: the conversion of land from food production to fuel production, the effect of global warming on small farmers, and the dangers of a concentrated food market. The world has witnessed the collapse of Haiti’s rice market, resulting in headline-making food riots. In Mexico, we have seen the rise of corn and gas prices and the concentration of the corn market due to NAFTA policies. Recent events in Myanmar have brought into focus the need for getting to the root of the global food crisis. One of the lesser talked about factors in the market changes is “the hike in speculation as investors search for new opportunities to make money out of money.” With that said, people are moving to make changes. Instead of seeing signs of food crisis as ominous, one writer argues, they “should be seen as wake-up calls to fix our most vital link to each other and to life itself—the food system.” Read the full article here.

In a Working Paper for the Center for Geoeconomic Studies, Laurie Garrett uses the cyclone in Myanmar as a springboard to address the mistakes in humanitarian food polices, and offers insights for a better way forward. Read the full article here.

Also see the petition circulating by One: The Campaign to Make Poverty History, “Stop the Hunger Crisis.”

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  1. Anonymous2:39 PM

    With both food and gas prices rising, maintaining a livable standard of living is becoming more and more difficult. Compounding these price rises is the drop in home prices and mortgage foreclosures occurring across the country. Of course the hardest hit are the poor, followed by the rest of the lower and middle classes. Things are not looking too good in the U.S. these days, and the rest of the world seems to be paying the price as well.

  2. Anonymous3:15 PM

    This AFP article, "World at 'alarming juncture' as leaders gather for FAO summit" describes the UN response to the global food crisis, including discussions of "short-term solutions as well as new strategies to deal with the effects of global warming, growing demand for biofuels and a crumbling agriculture sector in much of the developing world." Ahead of the conference, according to the article, battle lines are being drawn at protests around the world.


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