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Rising Food Prices Can Topple Governments, Too

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Rising Food Prices Can Topple Governments, Too

Rising Food Prices Can Topple Governments, Too

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  • Transcript

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Welcome back, Marilyn.

MARILYN GEEWAX: Hi, Liane.

HANSEN: How serious is this? I mean are food prices really that high?

GEEWAX: So it's not surprising that today, in places like Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, political unrest is starting to break out again. In so many countries, prices are up 30 percent for basic things; rice, cooking oil, sugar, wheat. People are hungry. They're angry. And that's contributing to this political turmoil.

HANSEN: So why are the food prices rising?

GEEWAX: But even that isn't the whole story. There are other factors that are more complicated. You know, we've got currency fluctuations, trade policies, financial speculation in commodities markets, and energy policy - it plays a role too, because ethanol makers want to use more corn. So we've got a lot factors that are coming together and causing higher food prices.

HANSEN: But why is inflation so much worse in other countries? Americans haven't seen the huge price jumps here.

GEEWAX: But still, we're not going to be immune to these global pricing forces. The USDA thinks that in the coming year, prices will be up about three percent.

HANSEN: So what can be done?

GEEWAX: And now, we've got so many people moving into cities all over the world, more will have to be done to encourage urban farming. And then there are more controversial proposals, like increasing the use of genetically-modified seeds, controlling population, and opening up markets to more global trade.

HANSEN: NPR's senior business editor Marilyn Geewax. Thank you, Marilyn.

GEEWAX: You're welcome, Liane.

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