[Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain.]
Some kind of quantity changing into quality point has been reached–suddenly the newspapers are full of "in-depth" reports on the global food crisis, a crisis that seems to have sprung up as suddenly as the credit crisis did a few months ago. I've been tracking this for a while and decided to think on the keyboard instead of out loud. I think it is important to try and understand this while it is a New Thing, before it becomes more background noise in world politics and our daily lives.
1. Production shortages and inflation are two major factors in the crisis.
What's causing the shortages?
Global warming is widely regarded as a contributing factor in droughts which have stricken not only subsistence farmers in East Africa, but also major commodity grain producers in the Southern Hemisphere–Chile, Argentina, and especially Australia, with thousands of square miles in their eighth straight year with no rainfall to speak of.
Growing Asian economies, especially in China and India, have made possible better and more diverse diets for hundreds of millions of people. This growing demand for food has additionally seen rising meat consumption by the middle class (echoing US consumption trends), and, as vegetarians are quick to point out, it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce a pound of beef.