Laurie Garrett, Global Health Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was featured on the Colbert Report Thursday. She explained to Stephen, who, in addition to being a popular TV show host, is apparently also an excitable food commodities trader, why she thinks that he has been making so much money lately on the rising prices of food commodities: other speculators, biofuels demand (40% of corn!), fires and floods, and the livestock-killing foot and mouth disease.
Stephen asked her to “make a case for humanity,” and she replied, “Maybe you are rich enough, Mr. Colbert to afford everything you need… but high prices are affecting people all around the world.” She noted that high food prices are affecting not just people in developing countries, but consumers here in the U.S. who buy much of their food from multinational food companies, for which corn is a major ingredient of many of their products. In true policy wonk fashion, she also pointed to a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report that indicated that the steep rise in wheat prices was indeed a major factor in recent riots the riots in Tunisia, where rioting citizens were initially seen waving baguettes in the air.
To that, Colbert replied, “Well then, shouldn’t people be thanking, me, the speculator, for bringing democracy to countries around the world?” It is an interesting question, and it leads me to ask myself, have we been unconsciously as a society excusing the impacts of high prices because dictatorships have crumbled as a result of them? Or maybe it’s just that we’ve been distracted by the unrest while millions of people have slipped into poverty and hunger due to high food prices. Not to say that the unrest does not deserve some of our attention, but why are we not outraged that 44 million more people now go to bed hungry compared to this time last year? Hunger is easy to forget, but I hope that you, as ONE a member, won’t forget what we can do to help.
Please read more about agriculture and food issues on ONE’s blog.