George only confirms what many saw coming. Many, but by way not enough, and 
not at the decision making places, where still a large consensus in favor of 
big, commercial agriculture, and a techno-solutionist approach to 'problems' 
prevails.   Parallel to Monbiot's piece I recommend to take a look at Paul 
Mobbs' The Right to Food Revisited'.  Part of his 'Ramblinactivsit 
meta-blog':  Paul has a far lesser 
media impact than Goerge Monbiot, but he has been telling the story for much 
longer time ...  
 Cheers, p+7D! 

 George Monbiot in The Guardian, May 19, 2022.  original to:

 The Banks collapsed in 2008 - and our food system isn about to do the same 
 Massive food producers hold too much power – and the regulators scarcely 
understand what is happening. Sound familiar? 

For the past few years, scientists have been frantically sounding 
<> an alarm that governments refuse to 
hear: the global food system is beginning to look like the global financial 
system in the run-up to 2008. 

 While financial collapse would have been devastating to human welfare, food 
system collapse doesn’t bear thinking about. Yet the evidence that something is 
going badly wrong <> has been 
escalating rapidly <>. The current 
surge in food prices looks like the latest sign of systemic instability. 
 Many people assume that the food crisis was caused by a combination of the 
pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine. While these are important factors, they 
aggravate an underlying problem. For years, it looked as if hunger was heading 
for extinction. The number of undernourished 
<> people 
fell <> from 811 million in 
2005 to 607 million in 2014. But in 2015, the trend began to turn. Hunger has 
been rising 
 ever since: to 650 million in 2019, and back to 811 million in 2020. This year 
is likely to be much worse. 
 Now brace yourself for the really bad news: this has happened at a time of 
great abundance. Global food production has been rising steadily 
 for more than half a century, comfortably beating population growth. Last 
year, the global wheat harvest was bigger than ever 
 Astoundingly, the number of undernourished people began to rise just as world 
food prices began to fall. In 2014, when fewer people were hungry than at any 
time since, the global food price index stood at 115 points 
<>. In 2015, it fell 
to 93, and remained below 100 until 2021. 
 Only in the past two years has it surged. The rise in food prices is now a 
major driver of inflation, which reached 9% in the UK last month 
 Food is becoming unaffordable even to many people in rich nations. The impact 
in poorer countries is much worse. 
 So what has been going on? Well, global food, like global finance, is a 
complex system 
 that develops spontaneously from billions of interactions. Complex systems 
have counterintuitive properties. They are resilient under certain conditions, 
as their self-organising properties stabilise them. But as stress escalates, 
these same properties start transmitting shocks through the network. Beyond a 
certain point, a small disturbance can tip the entire system over its critical 
threshold, whereupon it collapses, suddenly and unstoppably. 
 We now know enough about systems to predict whether they might be resilient or 
fragile. Scientists represent complex systems as a mesh of nodes and links. The 
nodes are like the knots in an old-fashioned net; the links are the strings 
that connect them. In the food system, the nodes include the corporations 
trading grain, seed and farm chemicals, the major exporters and importers and 
the ports through which food passes. The links are their commercial and 
institutional relationships. 
 If the nodes behave in a variety of ways, and their links to each other are 
weak, the system is likely to be resilient. If certain nodes become dominant 
<>, start to behave in similar ways 
and are strongly connected, the system is likely to be fragile 
<>. In the approach to the 2008 crisis, 
the big banks developed similar strategies and similar ways of managing risk, 
as they pursued the same sources of profit 
They became strongly linked to each other in ways that regulators scarcely 
understood <>. When Lehman 
Brothers failed, it threatened to pull everyone down. 
 So here’s what sends cold fear through those who study 
<> the global food system. In recent 
years, just as in finance during the 2000s, key nodes in the food system have 
swollen, their links have become stronger, business strategies have converged 
and synchronised, and the features that might impede systemic collapse 
<> (“redundancy”, “modularity”, “circuit 
breakers” and “backup systems”) have been stripped away, exposing the system to 
“globally contagious” shocks <>. 
 On one estimate, just four corporations control 90% of the global grain trade 
 The same corporations have been buying into seed, chemicals, processing, 
packing, distribution and retail. In the course of 18 years, the number of 
trade connections between the exporters and importers of wheat and rice doubled 
<>. Nations are now polarising 
into super-importers and super-exporters. Much of this trade passes through 
vulnerable chokepoints <>, such as 
the Turkish Straits (now obstructed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), the Suez 
and Panama canals and the Straits of Hormuz, Bab-el-Mandeb and Malacca. 
 One of the fastest cultural shifts in human history is the convergence towards 
a “Global Standard Diet” <>. 
While our food has become locally more diverse, globally it has become less 
diverse <>. Just four crops – wheat, 
rice, maize and soy – account for almost 60% of the calories grown by farmers 
<>. Their production is now highly 
concentrated in a handful of nations, including Russia and Ukraine 
<>. The Global Standard Diet is grown 
by the Global Standard Farm, supplied by the same corporations with the same 
packages of seed, chemicals and machinery, and vulnerable to the same 
environmental shocks. 
 The food industry is becoming tightly coupled to the financial sector 
<>, increasing what scientists call the 
“network density” of the system, making it more susceptible to cascading 
failure <>. Around the world, trade 
barriers have come down and roads and ports upgraded, streamlining the global 
network. You might imagine that this smooth system would enhance food security. 
But it has allowed companies to shed the costs of warehousing and inventories, 
switching from stocks to flows. Mostly, this just-in-time strategy works. But 
if deliveries are interrupted or there’s a rapid surge in demand, shelves can 
suddenly empty <>. 
 A paper in Nature Sustainability <> 
reports that in the food system, “shock frequency has increased through time on 
land and sea at a global scale”. In researching my book Regenesis 
 I came to realise that it’s this escalating series of contagious shocks, 
exacerbated by financial speculation 
<>, that has been driving 
global hunger. 
 Now the global food system must survive not only its internal frailties, but 
also environmental and political disruptions that might interact with each 
other. To give a current example, in mid-April, the Indian government suggested 
 that it could make up the shortfall in global food exports caused by Russia’s 
invasion of Ukraine. Just a month later, it banned exports of wheat 
 after crops shrivelled in a devastating heatwave. 
 We urgently need to diversify global food production, both geographically and 
in terms of crops and farming techniques. We need to break the grip of massive 
corporations and financial speculators. We need to create backup systems, 
producing food by entirely different means. We need to introduce spare capacity 
into a system threatened by its own efficiencies. 
 If so many can go hungry at a time of unprecedented bounty, the consequences 
of the major crop failure that environmental breakdown could cause defy 
imagination. The system has to change. 

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