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High Food Prices Drive Unrest, Study Says

An old argument says that full or empty bellies lead to contentment or revolt. Recent research supports that claim, showing that spikes in global food prices have coincided with the surge of social unrest and political instability seen recently in North Africa and the Middle East.

We know the culprits too, researchers say. Corn grown to produce fuel, rather than food, is one contributor to high prices. The other and perhaps greater cause of price instability is the deregulation of commodity markets.

Readers interested in a deeper understanding of the role financial markets play in making basic food unaffordable for much of the world’s population can check out Frederick Kaufman’s article published in the July 2010 issue of Harper’s Magazine, “The food bubble: How Wall Street starved millions and got away with it.” –ARK

ABC Science:

Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam, president of the New England Complex Systems Institute, and colleagues, correlated the dates of riots around the world with data from the United Nations that plots changes in the price of food.

They found evidence that episodes of social unrest in North Africa and the Middle East coincided closely with peaks in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index.

… The researchers point to two main factors driving the increase in food prices. The first is the deregulation of commodity markets, especially in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan, which allows prices to fluctuate widely. The second is the use of corn to produce ethanol for biofuel.

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