Nina Fedoroff – TRANSCRIPT
I’m here today to challenge the way we think about food and civilization. We live in a mobile, highly-technological, largely urban civilization; our food markets are bursting with produce.
We have an amazing global system that brings food from all over the world to those who can buy it; and there’s the rub to those who can buy it. In 2008, the food prices spiked and food riots broke out in 30 countries; governments fell. At the time, I was working as the science advisor to the US Secretary of State, then, Condoleezza Rice. She asked me to organize a high-level meeting on this food price crisis. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates was there; he understood the implications.
In the ensuing years, food prices moderated, then spiked again, and the Arab Spring began.
(Video starts) (Moderator: Angry protesters burning tires, blocking roads, and attacking the police with fireworks in the Algerian capital They are protesting over the rise in food prices and unemployment (Arabic). We do not accept this government because we’ve been suffering for ten years and ten more years are coming, and nothing will have changed. (Moderator) Anti riot squads deployed in many Algerian cities as a simmering anger threatens massive protest in the oil and gas-rich North African country. (Rioters) The government is humiliating us, they’re raising the price of sugar. We have to pay the rent, the electricity, water, sugar,and oil; we’re all poor. (Video ends)
You all know how that came out; and if you think that’s a coincidence, watch this: the red lines mark when, and the flags mark where food riots happen – a scary thought. Can the stability of governments, indeed civilizations, ride on food? Let’s go back for a moment and look at how civilizations started. For most of our history, we were hunter-gatherers.