As Food Prices Soar, U.N. Calls for International Help

(Once again the NewsHour on PBS provides excellent analysis of current issues. You can read the transcript and listen to the audio. There are additional links to other relevant discussions.)

Here’s an opportunity for us: Chemistry claims to be “The Central Science“. If so, we are central to the issue of food and energy. The “silent tsunami” of rising food prices is exacerbated, for example, by the diversion of corn from food to fuel. Millions of lives are jeopardized not by the scarcity of the food, but by the price of the food. (I once heard that the 1,500,000 deaths during the notorious Irish Potato Famine of 1845 were more caused by prices rising beyond the reach of the poor than by an actual lack of potatoes.)

There are already many intelligent people addressing this problem, but it is by no means solved. Imagine the impact of bringing the minds of a half a million or so chemists worldwide to bear on the question. Add to that the medical profession, the architects, the designers, the financiers, the businesspeople, etc., etc., etc., not to mention the students most importantly, and you have a huge pool of people with minds trained to identify and solve problems.

If 70% of your $1-a-day income goes on food for the family, and the price of rice and wheat rapidly doubles, your family goes from 2 meals a day to 1 meal a day, and then …….

What then must we do?