COVER: How To Stop The Food Riots. (Atlantic and Latin America
editions). Senior Editor Rana Foroohar opens this special report on the
world food crisis with a primer on the incredibly political nature of food.
As food prices spiral out of control, the worry is that millions more of
the world's poorest will also be lost to its ravages. Over the past few
months, there have been food-related riots in 22 countries. Fuel prices
have risen farther and faster than agricultural commodities over the past
few years, and the $1 trillion subprime mess dwarfs the food crisis in
terms of economic impact. But you don't eat oil or stocks. Those who would
try to predict where the current situation is headed would do well to
consider food crises of the past. This cover package illustrates that
agriculture, one of the world's most distorted industries, is in desperate
need of an overhaul.
It's the Stupid Politics. Hong Kong Bureau Chief George Wehrfritz and European Economics Editor Stefan Theil report there are two big factors contributing to today's global food crisis. One is the grossly distorted system of global trade in agriculture. The other factor is underinvestment in agriculture in the developing world, which leaders rationalize on the mistaken assumption that imported food would forever remain cheap. "They simply did not make [agricultural investments] a priority," says Lennart Bage, president of the U.N.-affiliated International Fund for Agricultural Development. "They've been lulled into a false sense of complacency."
How To Feed The World. Eight leaders in the fight against hunger, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick and Executive director of the United Nations World Food Program Josette Sheeran, offer food crisis action plans and long term ideas for how to end famine and bolster farming.
Rich But Hungry. London Reporter William Underhill reports that cost-conscious consumers in weakening economies are well aware of the doubling of the cost of wheat that makes their bread sometimes 30 percent more expensive. In the 15-nation euro zone, annual food-price inflation is running at 6.5 percent, the highest figure since recordkeeping began in 1997. It's reckoned that a record 28 million Americans will need food stamps this year, up 1.5 million on last year, and everywhere, politicians are struggling to supply answers to a problem that looks set to worsen.
Beakers To the Rescue. Special Correspondent Mac Margolis reports on the burgeoning industry of genetically manipulated crops. According to industry analysts, biotech crops have already expanded from practically nothing a decade ago to 282 million hectacres in 23 countries in 2007. The market for GM seeds has more than doubled since 2001, from $3 billion to $7 billion. Enthusiasts say once the products are unleashed onto the marketplace, farmers will be able to grow more nutritious food at lower costs using less water and pesticides, and even in the most punishing weather.
COVER: The Winds of Regime Change? (Asia edition) Beijing Bureau Chief Melinda Liu reports that while some in Myanmar are still in shock from the deadliest natural disaster in their country's history, others seem almost optimistic: they think the May 2 killer cyclone just might signal the end of Burma's military junta, one of the most corrupt and oppressive dictatorships on earth. Many citizens in this superstitious country seem to believe that the storm represented nothing less than divine retribution -- cosmic payback for the violent sacrilege committed by the junta last September, when the military put a quick and bloody end to the "Saffron Revolution." Now many Burmese see the monster cyclone as proof that Sr. Gen. Tan Shwe and his junta have lost the "mandate of heaven" -- the supernatural right to govern.
War Is the Answer. Special Correspondent Jeremy Kahn reports that in the past year, Sri Lankan government officials seemed tantalizingly close to the end of the 25-year long conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The remarkable progress achieved already is challenging the conventional wisdom about civil wars from Yugoslavia to Iraq: that there is no military solution.
The Hunt for Mr. Europe. Denis MacShane, a Labour M.P. and a former British minister for Europe, writes in an essay that whoever is chosen by the European Union's 27 government leaders to become president of Europe will define the EU for a generation to come. "The EU has a chance to have someone who can speak for Europe and pick up the phone when America or India or Brazil calls ... If EU leaders flunk this test, Europe's global status, and with that the EU's standing with European citizens, will decline still further," MacShane writes.
The Closing of the Church Door. Special Correspondent Mike Elkin reports Spain is loosening the binds between the Roman Catholic Church and state. Amid growing religious apathy nationwide, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in 2006 eliminated the church's exemption from paying the value-added tax. Now he is moving ahead with distinctly secular projects, including introducing sexual-education classes in school and providing government funding for a free, over-the-counter morning-after contraception pill.
GLOBAL INVESTOR: What's in a (Foreign) Name? Columnist Daniel Gross writes that naming rights are becoming a sought-after U.S. export. "Appeal to the vanity of status-hungry rich people or CEOs, and they'll pay top dollar to have their names associated with yours," Gross writes. "As the geography of global wealth rapidly shifts -- with rich American institutions becoming suddenly poorer and impressive pockets of wealth bulging around the globe -- naming rights have quickly evolved into what might be considered a new category of export."
WORLD VIEW: An Underwater Threat. Daniel Blumenthal, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes that, "for many years, America's security umbrella over the region has allowed Asia's great powers, including China, to focus on economic growth rather than military competition. Now China's rapid buildup could spark a costly regional competition that could potentially slow Asia's economic growth, as funds are diverted to military spending and investors are scared away."
THE LAST WORD: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Special Diplomatic Correspondent Lally Weymouth spoke with Olmert, who addressed the investigation into charges that he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions when he was mayor of Jerusalem. He also spoke about the possibility of resigning. "I don't really see that this will bring any better outcome for this country at this point. Not that a person is indispensable or irreplaceable. I don't believe in this. We are all human beings and there are many great guys in this country that can one day become prime ministers. But, given the circumstances right now, I think it will not do good that I step down at this point. I have to think about it."
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