Food Riots, the New Normal?

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Reduced land productivity, combined with elevated oil costs and population growth, threaten a systemic, global food crisis.  Citing findings from a study by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, published by The Royal Society, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed identifies the links between intensifying economic inequality, debt, climate change, and fossil fuel dependency to conclude that a global food crisis is now “undeniable.”

“Global food prices have been consistently higher than in preceding decades,” reports Ahmed, leading to dramatic price increases in staple foods and triggering food riots across the Middle East, North Africa, and south Asia.  The crux of this global phenomenon is climate change:  Severe natural disasters including drought, flood, heat waves and monsoons have affected major regional food baskets.  By mid-century, Ahmed reports, “world crop yields could fall as much as 20-40% because of climate change alone.”

Industrial agricultural methods that disrupt soil also contribute to impending food shortages.  As a result, Ahmed reports, global land productivity has “dropped significantly,” from 2.1% during 1950-1990 to 1.2% between 1990-2007.

By contrast with Ahmed’s report, corporate media coverage of food insecurity tends to treat it as a local and episodic problem.  For example, an April 2008 story in The Los Angeles Times covered food riots in Haiti, which resulted in three deaths.  Similarly, a March 2013 New York Times piece addressed how loss of farmland and farm labor to urbanization contributes to rising food costs in China.  Corporate media have not connected the dots to analyze how intensifying inequality, debt, climate change and consumption of fossil fuels contribute to the potential for a global food crisis in the near future.


Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “Why food riots are likely to become the new normal,” The Guardian, March 6, 2013.

Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich, “Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?” Proceedings of the Royal Society, March 7, 2013 (vol. 280, no. 1754).

Additional Sources:

“Food Cost Threatens Rebound In China,” The New York Times, March 11, 2013.

“3 killed in Haiti amid food riots, clashes,” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2008.

Student Researcher: Julian Kuartei, College of Marin

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth, College of Marin