Food Crisis Rounds Up

by William Yeatman on April 23, 2008

As food prices soars to new heights, researchers at Texas A&M makes a potentially revolutionary discovery. They discover a plant gene for saline tolerance in Arabidopsis. Arabidopsis is the trusty old model organism for plant scientists, and this discovery will help us produce new plants using molecular plant breeding methods (PMB’s), if the environmentalists will let us.


Although some of our current ailments are based on ill conceived ethanol mandates, subsidies that skew the food markets, and increased consumption in India and China, a recent op ed in the Telegraph joins a more and more unified Brittish demand for adopting PMB’s. The op ed also points the finger in the direction of OPEC, and the hypocrisy of leaders like Hugo Chavez. Chavez is supposedly a champion of the poor, but the high oil prices caused by the cartel’s price fixing are part of the problem with the rise in the cost of food.


Parts of the Arab world are harvesting the riches from the price fixing, it is important to remember that not all countries in the Arab world have oil. The region is balancing on a precarious edge between civil unrest and political chaos by choosing either of the options available to alleviate the situation.


Zimbabwe is again looking at starvation, not only due to the food prices, but also due to new bouts of drought. Last time they faced this situation, about 6 years ago, the government in Zimbabwe refused to accept aid shipments of maize because the grains came from PMB’s. This is the same corn that Americans eat every day. Luckily the starving population would not stand for this decision, spurred on by jet-setting environmental activists from Europe and USA. They raided the food containers, so the grain eventually got the people it was intended for, but what will the misguided leaders in Zimbabwe do this time around?


On the good news side, Ethopia opened up its first commodity exchange last week, which will lower the transaction cost for several major commodities in the country. Hopefully that will help Ethiopian farmers and consumers with lower cost for important foodstuffs.

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