Food Crisis in Waiting—in the U.S.?

June 14, 2012 01:33 PM

North Korea, Iran, Somalia—and the United States—are all potential trouble spots for major food shortages and humanitarian crises.

That’s the analysis of Johanna Nesseth Tuttle, the director of the Global Food Security Project for the Center for International and Strategic Studies. Tuttle spoke at the Future of Food: Food Security in the 21st Century at the Washington Post here in Washington, DC, June 14.

Tuttle was asked to identify where the next food crisis could come in the world by editor David Plotz. Her answer, as noted above: North Korea, Iran, Somalia and the United States.

North Korea. Long isolated from the modern world and its food producing capability, North Korea is chronically malnourished and underfed with much of its meager resources going to its military. It also has a young, inexperienced leader in Kim Jong Un, who has taken over after his father’s death. At the same time, North Koreans now possess one million cell phones. That inter-connected access could prove explosive if the country experiences another famine.

 • Iran. The Iranian economy has experienced 40% price spikes in staple food commodities as the country becomes more and more isolated over its nuclear program and as international sanctions take hold. As those sanctions continue to ratchet up and food prices continue to be squeezed, unrest among the populace could emerge.

Somalia. Hundreds of thousands of Somalians have fled drought-ravaged and war plagued areas of their country, only to be sequestered in camps that are often threatened and even controlled by terrorists groups.  Recent fighting by African Union troops have freed some areas of al-Qaeda allied militant control. But the situation is still dire after 16 aid organizations were banned from the country by al-Shabab last year.

United States. While people in the United States do not commonly think of themselves as a food-critical country, a major, extended drought such as the Dust Bowl of the 1930s could have devastating consequences. It’s likely the U.S. would be able to continue to feed itself under those conditions, but food prices around the world would skyrocket and destabilize resource-poor nations.

More information

Future of Food: Food Security in the 21st Century Conference

Center for International and Strategic Studies

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