They are calling it THE GREAT HUNGER OF 2008. The rapid rise in world prices for all basic food crops: corn, wheat, soybeans, rice and cooking oils is having a severe and potentially devastating effect. Economists and agriculture experts are calling the increases in world market prices “astounding.” The prices of sixty agricultural commodities traded on the world market increased 37 percent in 2007, 14 percent the year before. Corn prices are off the charts.

One cause is the diversion of food for fuel. Another cause is growing demand for meat as Latin American and Asian demand matches the West’s. It’s economically draining to feed crops to yet more cattle and pigs and poultry. A third cause is globalized agribusiness — countries once self-sufficient in food today are not. China and India are on that list. Finally, the climate’s not helping—drought in Australia and northcentral China, floods in the U.S. and South Asia. The 2007 cyclone in Bangladesh wiped out a good part of that nation’s rice crop.

THE GREAT HUNGER OF 2008 could easily became the GREAT FAMINE OF 2008. What could prevent that: when it comes to necessities – not just food, but water and fuel – a competitive market needs to be replaced by one that actually cooperates.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.