A food crisis—and healing answers

Feeding the world is a bigger concern than ever, as a noose surrounding the production and distribution of crops seems to be tightening. “Food prices are soaring to record levels,” says The New York Times, “threatening many developing countries with mass hunger and political instability” (NYTimes.com, “The Food Crisis,” February 25). In the United States, food prices are projected to increase up to 4 percent in 2011, a marked spike after a long period of relative stability.

Many factors are seen contributing to the current state of affairs. Bad weather has limited production in many countries, including Russia, Pakistan, Australia, and the United States. Developing countries like China have increased their consumption of meat, which has in turn created a higher demand for the grain that feeds livestock. Some countries have hoarded commodities. Coupled with a growing worldwide demand for oil, the unrest in the Middle East has been driving up the price of a barrel of crude. This all adds to the costs of shipping food, even as it diverts the use of grain away from feeding people and into heightened production of biofuels such as ethanol. 

The forces in play here are obviously interconnected; no single factor is alone responsible for the growing food crisis, and no one country can shoulder all the responsibility or implement the entire solution. As with so many other issues, collective actions are needed to find lasting solutions.

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April 11, 2011

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