There are times when taking an honest look at the world can be about as uplifting as a Dostoevsky novel. My research about the food crisis and its supposed solutions is one example of a clear grasp of the facts leading to near total despair.
The sad thing of course is that this is certainly a preventable - and I would argue a planned - crisis. As I argue in this piece largely about Africa, the IMF and the World Bank have taken dangerous steps to privatize and deregulate the global food industry. While marginalized populations around the world are struggling to make ends meet, Archer Daniels Midland and other agribusiness conglomerates are posting record profits. The deregulation was done in their interest and they are now reaping the benefits, while mostly urban impoverished populations unable to afford increased food prices are the hardest hit.
But the deregulation alone does not explain the crisis. As I argue here, it can hardly be a coincidence that the huge rise in food prices is occurring at almost exactly the same time as the U.S. mortgage market is crashing. It's as if there is too much speculative capital in the world, and wherever it goes it is likely to cause overvaluations of different kinds.
Theoretically speaking, there should be no cause for despair. All of these problems have solutions, some of them fairly intuitive. Farmers have been providing the world with food since the Bronze age. It may be a good idea to trust their instincts, to allow them to grow what makes sense in their national and regional environments, and for governments to worry first about feeding their own citizens and then exporting luxury goods. Speculation can be easily curbed through some kind of taxation, like the tax proposed by economist James Tobin; often a fraction of a per cent tax imposed on every transaction may be enough to dramatically decrease speculator's profit margins.
But these are common sense solutions. Someone let me know when the people who make decisions develop some common sense.
For more background reading and resources check out La Via Campesina and Food First.