High Food Prices and Political Instability

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Kansas farmers already know that they contribute to the global food supply. But what they may not know is how much their efforts contribute to global peace and security.

In a new interview on Green State TV, Bob Thompson, visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), talks about what happens when food production can’t keep up with population growth: the result can be food riots, social unrest, and geopolitical conflict.

It seems that more and more people are talking about the critical role food prices play in either promoting or undermining political stability. In a recent speech to the World Food Prize and an oped in the Wall Street Journal, Syngenta’s CEO Mike Mack compared the worldwide food riots that broke out in 2007-8 and again 2010-11. The countries were different but the problems were the same: high food prices triggered unrest. Mack explained, “[The countries] are all poor, and their populations spend a large percentage of household income on food.”  Unless we take action to boost agricultural productivity in these nations, he said, food riots and political instability threaten to become the new normal.

In a speech to SAIS, Jessica Adelman, Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Syngenta North America, added a key point: “The buffer between supply and demand is being squeezed,” but regularizing the world’s biotech approval process could solve this problem.

What’s the take away from all of this? Food security = global stability.

With agricultural exports exceeding $4.7 billion in 2009, Kansas is a key source of the global food supply. Other countries need to start using Kansas as a model for agricultural production.

For more info, find Green State TV on Facebook and check out their website.

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