This month we have two stories that are on a, sadly, very current and important subject: the food crisis. In the coming months I imagine we will see more on the topic. Scott Nelson, based in Cairo, traveled north to investigate the site of a woman's death during the chaotic rush for government subsidized bread in Egypt and Justin Mott, working for The New York Times, looked at palm oil production in Malaysia that cannot keep up with world demand.
Economist.com reported this spring, "'World agriculture has entered a new, unsustainable and politically risky period,' says Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, D.C. To prove it, food riots have erupted in countries all along the equator. In Haiti, protesters chanting 'We're hungry!' forced the prime minister to resign; 24 people were killed in riots in Cameroon; Egypt's president ordered the army to start baking bread; the Philippines made hoarding rice punishable by life imprisonment." [April 17, 2008]
Scott Nelson goes into the crush of Egyptian men surging forward in a cramped space to pay for and grab bread. Bread prices have doubled recently, forcing more people into the mix. President Hosni Mubarek has indeed ordered troops to bake bread. The bread line for women is around the corner and seems more orderly—thanks to a man towering over them with a rubber whip.
In the New York Times article linked to Justin Mott's dispatch on palm oil production in Malaysia, the author Keith Bradsher writes, "Cooking oil may seem a trifling expense in the West. But in the developing world, cooking oil is an important source of calories and represents one of the biggest cash outlays for poor families, which grow much of their own food but have to buy oil in which to cook it."
As the price of oil goes up restaurateurs, food stand operators, and millions of people get desperate. Also, as demand grows faster than production, rainforests fall. Loss of rainforests causes more climate change and a change in the climate affects the soil, the rain and food production and so forth.