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Views from the Center

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Still Time to Prevent Another Food Price Crisis—and the One after That?

This is a joint post with Vijaya Ramachandran.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) recently reported that the December 2010 Food Price Index surpassed the peak reached in June 2008. A closer examination of the data, however, provides some modest hope that the worst effects of the 2007-08 price spikes can be avoided, with luck and better policies.

First, it is important to note that only two of the five components of the Food Price Index were above 2008 levels—meat (slightly above) and sugar (more than twice as high). Second, as shown in the chart below, staple grain prices, which are key to preventing hunger among the poor, are increasing sharply, while rice and, to a lesser degree, wheat remain well below their 2008 peaks. Maize is the exception, thanks in part to U.S. policies supporting corn-based ethanol that bring to mind the zombies populating popular culture—they just won’t die!

UNESCO's Board Must Vote ‘No’ to Obiang Prize at Tuesday’s Board Meeting

This is a joint post with Julia Barmeier.

Tuesday, June 15 marks the last day that the board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) can object to the UNESCO-Obiang International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, which is made possible by a $3 million grant given to UNESCO by Equatorial Guinea’s dictator of 31 years—Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. As we blogged earlier, UNESCO gets to keep half of the money as a finder’s fee for identifying the winner. If the award ceremony does go forward, Obiang plans to attend, along with UNESCO's director-general, Irina Bokova.