White (rice) riot

Sordid speculation over Lute Olson's divorce and the preening and pandering of presidential candidates have dominated the news on- and off-campus for months, but the biggest issue of this year is one that's only recently received any attention: the worldwide food shortages that are rapidly becoming a humanitarian crisis.

While you chowed down on triple-Stackers in the campus food court this semester, riots were breaking out for simple staples like bread, corn and rice in countries as far-flung as Egypt, Mexico and Indonesia.

It's a perfect storm of simple economics and stupid policy. High oil prices have hiked up the cost of mechanized agriculture while a new middle class buying meat in India and China has caused demand for grain to skyrocket. Meanwhile, the United States keeps stoking its insatiable appetite for ethanol, growing food for Hummers over Hatians - not to mention stubbornly refusing to reform the bloated agriculture subsidies that directly harm the poorest people across the world.

It may be easy to blame this one on the Chinese (along with toys, Tibet, temperatures - just about everything these days), but the latest famines are monsters mostly of our own creation. American arrogance has left the global market for food a warped, inefficient one - and until we try to fix it, we ought to expect human suffering to continue.

Connor Mendenhall is a sophomore majoring in economics and international studies and the opinions editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.


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