Recognizing the problem, however, doesn't feed empty stomachs. Food riots have erupted in Bangladesh, Egypt, Senegal and Ethiopia. Last week, hungry Haitians, rioting over the price of rice, toppled their prime minister.
America is by far the world's leading food donor. President George W. Bush has made an additional $200 million in food aid available for "Africa and elsewhere" in order to feed starving people.
Emergency aid is the right short-term response to what U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls a "rapidly escalating crisis of food availability."
But what about the long term? Beware the calls for "structural changes" if that means mandates from bureaucrats. "Smart guy" mandates brought us subsidized ethanol. Large-scale alternative energy that diminishes reliance on oil? That's a truly systemic solution, but for three decades environmentalist fear-mongers in the United States have stymied the development of nuclear energy, a proven large-scale alternative energy source.
Applying human creativity is also a "structural change." "Algal fuel" -- algae producing biofuel, or methane -- is experimental but promising; it sounds sci-fi, but genetically engineered algae might someday produce first-rate fuel.
Genetically modified crops (they already exist, the gift of genetic research) dramatically increase land yields, but they have been tagged as "Franken-foods." Their fear-inciting critics forget modern corn is hybridized maize.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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