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Cullen Hendrix: Food and conflict

Food prices worldwide are greater in constant dollars than at any time since the early 1970s: A contributing factor is the “casino-type speculation” that has entered the global commodity markets, according to W&M professor of international relations Cullen Hendrix. Increasingly prices paid in Chicago affect prices charged in the developing world, he says.

Hendrix, who specializes in issues of conflict and food security, suggests that food scarcity can have far-reaching implications. For example, he links the unrest in the Middle East that led to the Arab Spring to a lack of “kitchen-table” items—i.e. food.

According to Hendrix, The biggest threats to food security in the near-term are not dwindling natural resources and free trade, but rather poverty, political barriers to market access, and the entrance of speculative capital into food and input commodity markets.  A robust trading system and sensible regulation of commodity trading are the best remedy for current concerns over food security.  Moreover, in light of forecast changes in global patterns of agricultural productivity, a robust trading system is the only conceivable way that a world undergoing climate change will be able to feed itself.”

Recently Hendrix conducted a video interview with the W&M News. Three video cuts (see right) feature his responses to (1) the nature of his research, (2) how food-insecurity contributed to the Arab Spring and (3) the way market speculations play a role in the worldwide increase in food pricing.

For more information, please see Hendrix's faculty web page.