How Will Rising Food Prices Impact the World?


Food riots have broken out in Egypt, Indonesia, Cameroon, Peru and, most recently, Haiti. What impact do you see the food-price explosion having on the world or your region, politically and economically? What can be done about it?

Posted by David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria on April 16, 2008 9:00 AM

Readers’ Responses to Our Question (34)

yasarfa2000@yahoo.com :

governments collect heavy taxes from people,
had distributed that money to the riches, the land owners,and big farmers and others, for they make production!
Governments needed to put extra taxes and discover new kinds of taxes after each
budget period, and the gap arise in the year ends.

The prices of food the farmers produced have also additional taxes to be paid by customers!

The buyers at the last of the chain always pay the taxes.

yasarfa2000@yahoo.com
ankara-turkey.

Robin :

I couldn't agree more with Lu Franklin. Over-population is a MAJOR, MAJOR factor in this world, especially in third world countries. Frankly, I've become disgusted from continually reading about so and so who doesn't have a penny to their name, but has 10 children. What are they thinking?? Whether it's a cultural custom or not, you'd think that their maternal instinct would kick in, and they'd want to avoid seeing their children starve to death, so they wouldn't have them in the first place!!

The other problem is our collective gluttony in the US and other developed countries. It's disgusting to go to a restaurant anymore and watch people shoveling mountains of food into themselves. I never eat fast food for lunch, at work. Instead, I eat leftovers from home-cooked meals, and my co-workers think I'm cheap. They miss the whole point - I'm after nutrition and healthy food, not fat, sugar and calories. People don't seem to understand what they're eating or how much they're overeating!

Victor Theofilopoulos, Athens, Greece :

There is more and more dissent in Greece against the USA and its policies. In a matter of a few months the whole world will go hungry and the USA will be entirely to blame - how does that feel??

No wonder people really really really hate the USA...How can such an ignorant, uneducated and the biggest terrorist of all - which is exactly waht the USA is, want to destroy the whole world??

Isn't it time all you citizens in the US, started actively practiscing democracy because under the 8 year Bush administration you have been living in a far-right fascist regime under the pretext and lies of the Bush government concerning terrorism etc....

It seems that the USA has sealed the final nail in its coffin but at the same time it is determined to take the whole world with it into Dante'w underworld - this is why all the games with decreasing the US$ value and increasing commodity and oil prices - its all a game by the US's biggest criminals which work in Wall Street and multi-national corporations.

And just one more issue / question - DOESN'T ANYONE IN THE US HAVE ANY SENSE TO SEE WHAT IS REALLY HAPPENING? HOW COME THE WHOLE WORLD SEES AND KNOWS FULLY WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE US AND THE GLOBAL DISASTER THAT THE US IS RESPONSIBLE FOR BUT YET US CITIZENS DO NOT HAVE AN INCLINE AS TO WHAT IS HAPPENING WITHIN THEIR COUNTRY??

I am sorry to be so forceful and "extreme" in my writing but I feel tremendous anger towards the Bush administration and feel like the whole world that he it is solely responsible for the tragedies about to unfold on our planet.

Victor Theofilopoulos, Athens, Greece :

Reply to article "Funds blamed for stoking high commodity costs" posted by a Common Man....

I hate to be a spoil sport but, people, ordinary democratic tax paying citizens the world over are purely and simply not interested in all this economic jargon via Market Watch, Bloomberg etc...all of this info being just a bunch of lies anyhow being published and speculated upon by the very "people" if I may be allowed to call them such, responsible for this horrific situation.

A study just out by a non-profit organisation responsible for world food and medicine distribution estimates that human population by next year will have fallen by almost 600 million due to disease and hunger all of this of course inflicted by the US and your madman President - PLEASE GET RID OF THIS GUY WITH WHATEVER MEANS POSSIBLE!!! BUSH IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE NETIRE PLANETS WOES AND DESERVES TO BE TRIED AT THE INTERNATIONAL COURTS OF JUSTICE.

Isn't it time trading in foodstuffs at least was banned altogether - would'nt the world be a much better place? Traders getting fatter and richer, multi-national corporations palying with us who dish us out with their rubbish (food and drink), God only knows the quality of what we consume to stay alive....and all this in addition to the extra-fat profits being made by oil companies.

General rule is never ever believe or trust market watch or any other economic data regardless of the company which issues it as it is all a bunch of lies, hypocrisy, and dangerous US-capitalist propaganda.

What I want to know and every other level-headed citizen around the world is why:
1. has the US administration been so criminal in rendering bankcrupt the US ecomonomy?
2. why is nobody and all the people and companies who got rich willing to do anything about this?
3. why for US mistakes which were made by the biggest and most corrupt psycopath the world has ever known - George Bush does the whole planet have to pay?
4. would the world indeed be a much better place without the US? - I am not racist nor do I wish any harm and nor am I a terrorist I assure you before some of you paranoid Americans start bearing your weapons believing me to be a terrorist - all I am stating is that literally millions of people in Europe know that the USA is solely responsible for uncontrollable spiralling food, oil and commodity prices and wish that the USA just disappeared off the face of the world.
5. why don't the media in the US coerce enormous pressure for the rectification of things in the US.
6. fuel and food prices must drop - this cannot go on for any much longer. Many people have started suffering even in Greece as a consequence of fascist US policies.

Funds blamed for stoking high commodity costs :

Excerpts from an interesting article on MarketWatch which suggests the cause and fixes for higher commodity prices....

Benn Steil, director of international economics with the Council on Foreign Relations, testified that the value of commodity index investments has grown by about one-third since the beginning of the year to more than $250 billion.

Yet according to Masters, institutional investors such as corporate and government pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and university endowments -- relatively new participants in the commodities futures markets -- are creating a demand shock. Specifically, he cited index speculators who allocate a portion of their portfolios to commodities investments that track popular indexes such as the Dow Jones-AIG Commodity Index.
"Collectively, these investors now account on average for a larger share of outstanding commodities futures contracts than any other market participant,"

Masters recommended that Congress eliminate index speculation and take other steps such as prohibiting pensions from investing in commodity index replication strategies. He further suggested that Congress close a swaps loophole that enables all sorts of speculators to access the futures markets in positions beyond their limits.

Here is the link for the publication..

http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/speculators-drive-food-energy-prices/story.aspx?guid=%7BD4F1E194%2DF1B6%2D43BE%2DB0B4%2D4AE04874B5DC%7D

A common man

Victor Theofilopoulos, Athens, Greece :

The whole issue of biofuels is ludicrous and immensely short-sighted. Ancient forests in the Amazon, Africa, Indonesia & Malaysia - especially the forests of Borneo in addition to sea-organsims, algae and seaweed are all immensely capable of absorbing CO2 emmissions in order to give us oxygen. It is defeating the purpose entirely if in order to burn or emit clean fuels instead of CO2 we cut down all forests which are more than adequate in absorbing our gaseous emissions in the first place and grow crops specifically to meet requirements of burning ethanol. To me and I am no expert, this seems completely stupid and very ill-thought - it is almost sickening. Of course I see this as stupid because I view this entirely from an environmental protection perspective. I forgot that this is no stupid venture for all the world's corrupt governments and agencies involved in this who are not interested in protecting the environment at all but are only in this business for disgusting loads of profit. It is estimated that Brazil will have destroyed all of the Amazon within the space of 12 years and it is immensely saddening that people are literally "bought out" or "forced out" of their land to clear away forest - I am not sure which is best, I would probably take the option of being forced out or even risk being killed rather than sell my soul to the devil as Brazilians are now doing. It is estimated that by 2050, one third of today's existing wildlife will be completely extinct.

It seems to me that the world's human "or should I refer to humans as the worst of the animals to inhabit our planet" is far too large - there is no way either now or ever that the earth's resources will be able to feed the 6, 7, 8 or 9 billion people.

Human beings are destroying everything they can get their hands on simply for profit - HASN'T ANYONE REALISED THAT PROCEEDING IN THIS WAY WILL ONLY SERVE TO DESTROY HUMAN EXISTENCE COMPLETELY!

I do not know what to wish for really or to hope for. Is it really worth hoping that humans will finally "get" a brain - is it worth wishing that our planet will find a balance as it always has done via sudden increased snowfall & rainfall across the globe via a sudden cooling by 2-3 degrees Celsius - by suddenly sprouting of trees and plants everywhere - is it worth "almost hoping" that people die in our world en-masse - AND I DO INCLUDE MYSELF IN THIS - because drastic human population decline is the only hope that remains for our planet and animal kingdom / wildlife in order for human life to be sustained...I really do not know, but I think that drastic human population decline will occur through more and more violent weather phenomena and mutating diseases which will wipe out hundreds of millions of people. I am not a bad person neither hate people - but simply feel(including myself) that we are all deeply responsible all for this sorry state of affairs and for this immense destruction being inflicted upon our planet a destruction which is already starting to boomerang upon us.

Cormac McCarthy should not only have won the Pulitzer Prize for his astounding and apocalyptic novel "The Road" - he should also have won the Nobel Prize - for it is a work of art in itself and not only is "The Road" apocalyptic but also looking immensely realistic day by day.

For the US, it all started with the genocide of the Native Americans whose values and balanced respectful relationship with nature still echos and resounds in the vast empty landscapes of the American West and especially where their hearts were buried at Wounded Knee. There was so much the US could have learnt from the Native Americans - instead it selected a future of gluttony, greed, disrespect for all life human or wildlife, destruction and values of money, money, money, money resulting in this imminent devastation.

It is only a matter of time until wars will break out en-masse across the globe out of hunger and thirst while American and other multi-national corporations line their pockets with gold - only it is foolsgold, because how can people still believe that if they have money they are omnipotent. Human beings are ignorant and stupid and alas do not yet accept that they are mortal beings.

JOAO DA ROCHA :

Os governantes da maioria dos países, inclusive os E.U estão se mostranto incapazes de conter a especulação financeira atraves da Tradings e dos carteis das bolsas de mercadorias, lideradas por Chicago e Brasil. O que está acontecendo, além da corrupção, é o controle dos Bancos Centrais Mundiais. No Brasil, mais de 70% da produção nacional de alimentos estão sendo controlados por armazens e silos das Tradings.
O capital especulativo, como nao sofreu nenhuma penalidade com as malandragens da subprimes, se julga totalmente umune para entrar agora na área das comodities, sacrificando mais de 15% da população mundial.Podemos considerar como um crime contra a humanidade.
Os governantes não podem ficar coniventes com tamanha irresponsabilidade.
Alimento é um ítem básico e indispensável para o rico e o pobre. A ONU deve considerar esta questão como de Segurança Nacional. Como está, nao pode ficar.

e.ahmed :

Solutions to solve the food crisis locally have to be initiated from local population (bottom up approach). This is not the case in most third world countries. This food crisis problem shows how connected is the world hence how the whole world has to "persuade" governments in these countries to adopt other policies and to seriously listen to their people. This is no longer an "internal affair"

VIRGINANDTHECITY :

Greed.
Gluttony. Need I go on? Because I think I see a pattern here fueling the current food crisis.

A common man :

In recent time, there have been serious debates on Global Warming, Terrorism, unjust wars, micro lending and emergence of India and China as Economic Powers but almost sudden collapse of the World Food Supply causing panic around the globe is expected to have a deep, brutal and profound impact on human society which may lead to serious political, economical, social and ethical challenges for nations directly or indirectly attributing to this crisis. World's poor will be the innocent victims of this human error in a gigantic proportion provided responsible governments; powerful politicians, socially responsible businesses, and communities come together and stage a massive counter offensive on root cause of this problem under human control.

In last several years, power of capitalism has blinded the mankind and these greedy, irresponsible capitalists seems to be leveraging their "soft and liquid power" to influence political decisions and creating havoc by swarming massive unregulated money around the world like locusts in anything and everything that has never been thought about as viable "Investments", generating massive interest from all walks of life. It started hyping stock markets when that bubble bursted, they pumped up the world housing market, then oil, natural gas, energy, metals and minerals like gold, platinum, uranium and finally commodity market for corn, wheat, rice, soybean and other eatables which is the essential survival means for most world population. The situation got worse by short sighted political decisions in rich nations who care less for food because they feel invincible to "hunger situation" and prefer "Oil" as the key to their economic dominance.

Food for bio-fuel "ethanol" is the latest hype and trend where rich industrialized nations are subsidizing farmers and businesses for producing bio-fuel using scarce food and diverting farmer’s attention to "profitable" crops.

There is need to push governments around the world to consider a criminal act if the common food is used for fuel by any country, declare trading in food commodity markets illegal, stop or decrease trade relations with countries and businesses involved in bio-fuel until their policy is reversed, held political and business leaders accountable if they ignore human plight and take the case to the world bodies such as United Nations for condemning their act, control the mad rush for commodity trading and oil speculation, abandon aid for the "ill idea" and divert aid towards reducing the stress on supply and transportation cost affecting food supply, preserve food efficiently and release to needy, reduce wastage at restaurants limiting supply if they do not comply, create awareness and responsive societies in rich countries where high consumption and wastage is a common occurrence, regulate behavior of media and analysts owned by capitalists who promote "Hype Culture" and massive interest in "bio-fuel and commodity trading".

These actions will only serve as the immediate deterrence; therefore, measures like climate control, stopping deforestation, reducing carbon emission, improving harvesting and protecting crops, reducing dependence on oil to ease pain on supply cost, focusing on other alternative means of energy, improving supply chain efficiency and encouraging businesses to adopt social responsibility are steps towards the right direction.

"Go Green" and "No Green for Greedy" should be a common man's motto!!!

Victor Theofilopoulos, Athens, Greece :

It should also be mentioned that the food and fuel crisis is being fuelled into an uncontrollable high-price and hard-to-get-to spiral by the US's and Europe's unquenchable thirst for their automobile industries and automobile cultures. Unfortunately however, not many people are prepared to forgo some of their selfishness choosing to get rid of their car for another means of transport and by Bush's disastrous food for fuel programme. Was there any sort of in-depth research conducted before this ill-thought out moronic decision to grow crops for ethanol fuel was taken which will destroy half of the world's population if allowed to continue...I wonder...

As a truly free-minded democratic citizen of Greece, Europe and the world, I would like to exercise my free speech in urging particularly the US media and US citizens to help eradicate once and for all the disastrous effects created by the Bush administration. It breaks my heart every day to see people killing each other for access to food and if something is not urgently done to reverse this - phenomena like these will start to "crop up" everywhere - even in countries of the developed world. There is already a frightening increase in the number of people in Greece and Europe who fear that extreme poverty will strike in our part of the world too...Grandmothers and Grandfathers here in Greece tell us every day that they went through a world war some, through two world wars and the military US-sponsored junta in Greece but what we will witness now will not have anything familiar with what came before - things will be dire and things will become much much worse.

If only the US can put its house in order - this food and fuel crisis has been going on for far too long! It must stop!

Thank you once again for your time and support in promoting free and fair news.

Sincerely yours,
Victor Theofilopoulos

Victor Theofilopoulos, Athens, Greece :

First and foremost I would like to sincerely congraulate this Washington Post.com for hosting and maintaining this excellent topic on its forum - bravo - keep up the good work!

Second, well done to Sara from the USA who posted extremely valuable information on this forum on May 7, 2008 12:56 AM.

Following on from my previous post and from Sara's feed, I would like to state the following:

It seems to me evident - in fact, there is no doubt whatsoever that Bush has been a complete catastrophe. As President of the US he has been a complete disaster and a tragedy for human civilization across the whole world. He and his government, his advisors and the entire business and financial sector in the US has gone wildly and dangerously astray taking with it the whole world. For years upon years and mostly during this last Presidency the FED and the US's economic policies and intsruments are basically condemning people across the world to famine, death and wars.

I have just one question for ordinary Americans, why on earth did you have to re-elect Bush again? Why dear God did you have to elect this person again? Wasn't it plain and simple as it was to all of mankind outside of the US that the Bush presidency has been a "war of terror" waged by your own government? All this paranoia of everybody being against the US, that the US had to defend itself against mysterious and unseen dark forces post 9/11 will probably under the next Presidency in the US - god help it is Barack Obama, be revealed to be he biggest lie and hoax the US has ever known. Why have people in the US been so gullible and ignorant - why have people in the US been wearing blindfolds for so long. People do things because they want to do things so excuses are not the best alibi at the moment.

Why did the people of the US allow a person to become President of their country who has been involved in school and college delinquency - a person who used illicit drugs - a person who was arrested time and time again until his mid forties for drunk and disordered behaviour - a person who was reprimanded in custody by the police - a person who is quite evidently a dangerous moron. Why??

The optimum solution for US citizens now is to begin seeing things exactly for what they are and to make a marked u-turn and fundamental change in the way they go about things and the way they forge relationships with other countries...In other words, to begin the healing process and the healing process begins by acknowledging our mistakes, by seeing what we can do to mend these mistakes and by finding ways to set aside our differences and focus on our common interest. As people - as a civilisation black, white, European, American, Asian, Russian, Arab, Australian, Indian, Eskimo etc...etc...etc...we have far more things in common than differences.

1. The Bush administration is solely responsible for its ill-thought out policies of biomass technology and ethanol fuel from agriculture.

2. The Bush administration is solely responsible for rendering useless, excess medicine and oil stockpiles condemning ultimately to death probably hundreds of millions around the globe and causing increased poverty in the developed world.

3. The Bush administration managed to corrupt and bankcrupt the entire US financial system - causing a havoc-domino effect across the world with unknown as yet repercussions.

4. The Bush administration has been solely responsible for not promoting environmental awareness and measures to protect the enviroment in the US instead, continuing in a completely ignorant way to promote the use of automobile dependency - somtimes 3-4 cars per family instead on relying on public transport and cycling.

5. The Bush administration is involved in two illegal wars (it illegally invaded both Iraq and Afghanistan) and now is in a situation it cannot extricate itself from - the US army is currently in a deadlock between a rock and a hard place and it seems to me that various warring factions are not willing to stop unless all US service men are sent to their mothers in the US in body bags.

6. The US administration is solely responsible for the uncontrollable upward spiral in oil prices - it is plain to see that oil will rise to an excess of US$200 per barrel - I say that all currency buffers and all wealth across the globe be exhanged to Euros and now is the time to do this before the US dollar is rendered completely worthless.

7. Please, please, please - this is a message to all the US, please do something about Bush - please do away with him - he has caused nothing but disaster - get rid of him now and have an interim government of intellectuals until the elections in November where hopefully for the love of God and for the sake of all mankind on our our planet you will vote into power a new democratic - truly democratic government and hopefully - please make the change with Barack Obama - the whole world is waiting to clasp its hands together in tremendous and genuine applause should Obama be the victor. Please dear USA, do yourself and the whole world justice by electing somebody who at least has brains between their ears.

I see the elections in the US in November as a first important step in bridging the divide caused by the current US administration and opening up to others in an unprecedented way. I feel that the there is so much that is truly good about the US and all of its people and this is a unique opportunity to show this to the rest of the world.

God bless America and all of its citizens in choosing another way - the way of coming together rather than the isolation and paranoia instigated and brainwashing that has taken place under the Bush administrations.

God bless all of mankind and hopefully within the next month, we will see both food and oil prices fall drastically for the good of everybody.

Thanking you once again "Washington Post" for your valuable time and airing of such valuable comments on this forum.

Well done - keep up the good work!

Sincerely and hopefully yours,
Victor Theofilopoulos

SARA: USA :

From the Market oracle:

US Fed To Blame for Global Food Crisis

The stakes couldn't be higher for Ben Bernanke. If the Fed chief decides to lower rates at the end of April (which he did), he could be condemning millions of people to an agonizing death by starvation. The situation is that serious; there's no room for error. Food riots have broken out across the globe destabilizing large parts of the developing world. China is experiencing double-digit inflation. Indonesia, Vietnam and India have imposed controls over rice exports. Wheat, corn and soya are at record highs and threatening to go higher still. Commodities are up across the board.


The World Food Program is warning of widespread famine if the West doesn't provide emergency humanitarian relief. The situation is dire. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez summed it up like this, "It is a massacre of the world's poor. The problem is not the production of food. It is the economic, social and political model of the world. The capitalist model is in crisis."

Right on, Hugo. There is no shortage of food; it's just the prices that are making food unaffordable. Bernanke's "weak dollar" policy has ignited a wave of speculation in commodities which is pushing prices into the stratosphere. The UN is calling the global food crisis it a "silent tsunami", but its more like a flood; the world is awash in increasingly worthless dollars that are making food and raw materials more expensive. Foreign central banks and investors presently hold $6 trillion in dollars and dollar-backed assets, so when the dollar starts to slide, the pain radiates through entire economies. This is especially true in countries where the currency is pegged to the dollar. That's why most of the Gulf States are experiencing runaway inflation. This doesn't mean that oil depletion, biofuel production, over-population, and giant agribusinesses don't add to the problem. They do. But the catalyst is the Fed's monetary policies; that's the domino that puts the others in motion.

Here's Otto Spengler's summary in his recent article in Asia Times, "Rice, Death and the Dollar":

"The global food crisis is a monetary phenomenon, an unintended consequence of America's attempt to inflate its way out of a market failure. There are long-term reasons for food prices to rise, but the unprecedented spike in grain prices during the past year stems from the weakness of the American dollar. Washington's economic misery now threatens to become a geopolitical catastrophe....The link between the declining parity of the US unit and the rising price of commodities, including oil as well as rice and other wares, is indisputable.

Never before in history has hunger become a global threat in a period of plentiful harvests. Global rice production will hit a record of 423 million tons in the 2007-2008 crop year, enough to satisfy global demand. The trouble is that only 7% of the world's rice supply is exported, because local demand is met by local production. Any significant increase in rice stockpiles cuts deeply into available supply for export, leading to a spike in prices. Because such a small proportion of the global rice supply trades, the monetary shock from the weak dollar was sufficient to more than double its price." ( "Rice, death and the dollar", By Otto Spengler, Asia Times)

The US is exporting its inflation by cheapening its currency. Now a field worker in Haiti who earns $2 a day, and spends all of that to feed his family, has to earn twice that amount or eat half as much. That's not a choice a parent wants to make. Its no wonder that six people were killed Port au Prince in the recent food riots. People go crazy when they can't feed their kids.

Food and energy prices are sucking the life out of the global economy. Foreign banks and pension funds are trying to protect their investments by diverting dollars into things that will retain their value. That's why oil is nudging $120 per barrel when it should be in the $70 to $80 range.

According to Tim Evans, energy analyst at Citigroup in New York, “There's no supply-demand deficit". None. In fact suppliers are expecting an oil surplus by the end of this year.

"The case for lower oil prices is straightforward: The prospect of a deep U.S. recession or even a marked period of slower economic growth in the world's top energy consumer making a dent in energy consumption. Year to date, oil demand in the U.S. is down 1.9% compared with the same period in 2007, and high prices and a weak economy should knock down U.S. oil consumption by 90,000 barrels a day this year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration." ( "Bears Baffled by Oil Highs" gregory Meyer, Wall Street Journal)

There's no oil shortage; that's another ruse. Speculators are simply driving up the price of oil to hedge their bets on the falling dollar. What else can they do; put them in the frozen bond market, or the sinking stock market, or the collapsing housing market? The Fed has gummed up the entire financial system with its low-interest credit scam; now it's on to commodities where the real pain is just beginning to be felt. What a mess!

This is what happens when there's too many dollars sloshing around the system; they all need a place to rest, and when they do, they create equity bubbles. Sound familiar? Indeed. This is Greenspan's legacy in a nutshell; the dark specter of Maestro will continue to haunt the world until all the hyper-inflated asset-classes (real estate, bonds, stocks, commodities) return to earth and all the red ink is mopped up. That'll take time, but Bernanke could make things a lot easier if he accepted some responsibility for the current turmoil and raised rates by 25 basis points. That would show speculators that the Fed was serious about defending the currency which would send the commodities bubble crashing to earth. Prices would go down overnight; guaranteed.

But Bernanke won't raise rates because he doesn't really give a hoot about the people in Cameroon who have to scavenge through garbage-dumps for a few morsels to keep their families alive. Nor does he care about the average American working-stiff who gets cardiac-arrest every time he pulls up to the gas pump. What matters to Bernanke is making sure that his fat-cat buddies in the banking establishment get a steady stream of low interest loot so they can paper-over their bad investments and ward off bankruptcy for another day or two. Its a joke; it was the investment banks that started this downward spiral with their rotten mortgage-backed securities and other debt-exotica. Still, in Bernanke's mind, they are the only ones who really count.

And don't expect Bush to step in and save the day either. The "Decider" still believes in the unrestricted activity of the free market; especially when his crooked friends can make a buck on the deal.

From the Washington Times: "Farmers and food executives appealed fruitlessly to federal officials yesterday for regulatory steps to limit speculative buying that is helping to drive food prices higher. Meanwhile, some Americans are stocking up on staples such as rice, flour and oil in anticipation of high prices and shortages spreading from overseas. Costco and other grocery stores in California reported a run on rice, which has forced them to set limits on how many sacks of rice each customer can buy. Filipinos in Canada are scooping up all the rice they can find and shipping it to relatives in the Philippines, which is suffering a severe shortage that is leaving many people hungry." (Patrice Hill, Washington Times)

The Bush administration knows there's hanky-panky going on, but they just look the other way. It's Enron redux, where Ken Lay Inc. scalped the public with utter impunity while regulators sat on the sidelines applauding. Great. Now its the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) turn; they're taking a hands-off approach so Wall Street sharpies make a fortune jacking up the price of everything from soda crackers to toilet bowls.

"A hearing Tuesday in Washington before the Commodity Futures Trading Commission starts a new round of scrutiny into the popularity of agricultural futures, a once a quieter arena that for years was dominated largely by big producers and consumers of crops and their banks trying to manage price risks. The commission's official stance and that of many of the exchanges, however, is likely to disappoint many consumer groups. The CFTC's economist plans to state at the hearing that the agency doesn't believe financial investors are driving up grain prices. Some grain buyers say speculators' big bets on relatively small grain exchanges, especially recently, are pushing up prices for ordinary consumers. ("Call Goes Out to Rein In Grain Speculators", Ann Davis)

"The agency doesn't believe financial investors are driving up grain prices"?!?

Prices have doubled, people are starving, and the Bush troop is still parroting the same worn party-mantra. Its maddening.

The US has been gaming the system for decades; sucking up two-thirds of the world's capital to expand its cache of Cadillac Escalades and flat-screen TVs; giving nothing back in return except mortgage-backed junk, cluster bombs, and crummy green paper. Nothing changes; it only gets worse. But this is different. The world is now facing the very real prospect of "completely avoidable" famine because twelve doddering old banksters at the Federal Reserve would rather bailout their sketchy friends and preserve their spot at the top of the economic food-chain then save the lives of starving women and children. Bernanke now has an opportunity to do more damage than Bush with one swipe of the pen. If he cut rates; the dollar will fall, commodities will spike, and people will starve. It's as simple as that.

REBEL SOUTH CAROLINA USA :

Main problem is ALL GLOBAL GOVERNMENTS have been
spewing their fiat, (paper), money for many years and this has made prices rise. For much of the world's population food has risen in price - to catch up to money supply - to a point where many can't afford to buy food. The insane policy of using corn to produce ethanol is boosting food prices, too.

Victor Theofilopoulos, Athens, Greece :

It seems to be at first instance that the earth's resources are unable to sustain almost 7 billion people and this huge number in direct co-existence with plant and animal life which was here well before us - but life which we are choosing to erode and eradicate day in day out.

So my first point in essence is that we as humans should stop thinking that human life is sacrosanct and that we are at the core of everything. Natural disaster strikes and we are gone in an instant. Yes, we are far too many on this fragile earth of ours and the earth's finite resources cannot support us all.

a) If we destroy all other life then the human race will also die - but people do not seem to realise this.

b) Do we really want an earth as described in Cormac McCarthy's postapocalyptic novel "The Road"??

c) It is unfortunate and inevitable that the world's human population will start to decline gradually - already in industrialised countries, death rates are in excess of birth rates.

d) Unfortunately the global food crisis and water crisis - because it already has been about a global water crisis, will take a heavy toll through major wars.

e) The main culprit for this huge problem is the US and its policies. Never before has a president managed to devastate his country's bottom line, never before has such havoc been reeked across the US financial system and all this because you chose in the US to re-elect a paranoid, moronic, menatlly unstable criminal for your president - yes I am referring to George Bush. Never has our world known such a disastrous individual.

i..) too much stockpiling of food and grain as well as other produce was the policy of rich countries who exploited the poor without quality and equal distribution of surplus food supplies and produce to the less fortunate.

ii..)) Failed policies and short-sighted almost criminal policies by the US government regarding tariffs, world trade organistaion policies etc...have broughts the whole world to the brink.

iii..)) What does the US propse to do about its 40 million people who live on donations and soup kitchens on a daily basis in some of the US's most prominent cities?

iv..)) It seems that US paranoia with terrorism and the illegal invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan to name but a few and others we never hear about and their paranoia of "left" viewpoints as "left" was considered to be immediately anti-capitalist or indeed communist - red and bad when being left or having left ideas means that one is more of an intellectual vis-a-vis a-poltical people as the the 300 million living in the US who do not know the difference between a chicken and a cow - has rendered the US into a dire economic situation I fear without return.

f) Extreme capitalism therefore, as the one created by the US is the same poison as Communism - because the only thing that has been happening in the US over the past 20 years is consolidation across industries meaning an eventual oligopoly or monopoly of industries - money and power accummulated into the hands of the few thereby CREATING WHAT YOU MOST FEARED IN THE US AN ALMOST COMMUNIST ECONOMY WHERE 10 LARGE CORPORATIONS WILL DICATET TO THE REST OF THE WORLD HOW TO LIVE!!

It is indeed evident to see how the American Dream failed and it failed because it was plain utopia and a bag of lies.

If I was living in the US at present, I would be more concerned with the fact that the next bloody revolution and complete societal breakdown will start in the US and its cities - by your own citizens Blacks and Whites, and it will have devastating effects - rather than believing the fanatasy stories made up by Bush and your government since 9/11 by chasing non-existent terrorists in some remote region of the world.

God help you in electing a new President - hopefully you will elect Obama and make a whole new rejuvenating change for you and for the whole world. Hopefully, you as Americans can overcome your complexes of electing somebody who is not white as your President.....hopefully, there is still hope for the US to choose the right path - for the benefit of all 7 billion people on our planet.

Thanks indeed for your time,

Sincerely yours,

Tyron - South Africa :

Lu Franklin, type alot of things about what you said... instead ill post these questions for you, do you even know why the population growth is escalating, or in which areas and groups? What other factors influence all these issues at hand (as posted by others here and some not mentioned here) and considered all these stated issues impacts?
Your quote: "Several of us who devoted our lives to research on reproduction have tried to alert the public of this coming man-made apocalypse".
Please enlighten us on your qualifications and where we can view your research papers, because your statements where more that of a fanatic than that of an intellectual.

JOAO DA ROCHA :

A responsabilidade pelo aumento nos preços dos alimentos é das grandes tradings dos paises ricos, que exploram a miséria de milhões de pessoas que estão passando fome no mundo inteiro.
Os especuladores financeiros e banqueiros não tiveram penalidades que mereciam com os ganhos das letras hipotecárias. Agora estão se voltando para as comodeties e se movimentando tranquilamente.O mundo precisa que a produção de alimentos aumente em mais 30 milhões de toneladas para resolver os problemas da fome. Está faltando vontade politica dos governos, para se unirem contra a especulação financeira internacional. Mais de 1/3 das áreas agricultáveis estão improdutivas. Somente na U,E está reativando mais de l,3 milhões de hectares. Falta seriedade para resolver o problema.

Mars :

The main reason for higher food prices is government subsidies given to farmers to grow crops for alternative fuel. Now, more crop production is going towards alternative fuel leaving less crop production for food.

In addition, restrictions and over regulation on the use of fossil fuel have driven up the price of gas, which in turns raises the price of production on most consumer and capital goods.

Lastly, corrupt governments that oppress their citizens and ruin their country's economy has played a big part in the rise of food prices. In some instances, some rogue leaders use food as a weapon.

I respectfully disagree with those that blame the free market system for this food crisis. There are some images or data that may suggest or appear to suggest that the market is the cause of this crisis. However, this is not the free market system. This is CRONY capitalism, which is connected to political power. This is not, in a classical liberal sense, free market economics. There is only one place on the planet that practice a mostly unadulterated free market economy, it is Hong Kong. Every other economy, including the US, is regulated by government policy and oversight. And most of these politicians and regulators, regardless of party, are tied to special interests in one way or fashion.

How Can Face A Don't Care World? :

Many nations that don't pay attention on their most devastated over-population problem while people multiply as fast as flies! While these folks have unable to grow crop enough to feed their own citizens!
This is the most serious world problem as a time bomb is waiting for giving off!
All other nations that control their own population growing that not subjected to be blamed for the malnutrition, hunger and food-shortage problems existing dfrom the never self-restrained population growing realted nations!
In summary, any nation which allow its population growing out of control deserved to pay the price of lack of food! and other responsible nations have their other problems to solve for themselves!
The world is heading into growing more mouths to find food but not to prepare for growing food enough to feed their own too crowded populations!

BobL-VA :

MikeB,

I'm very aware of the esculating food prices in the US and around the world. I also agree Globalization has had negative effects on our economy. Where we would probably part company is I also believe Globalization has had positive economic impact as well. There have been winners and losers in the Globalization process. However, I sincerely doubt Globalization is going away anytime soon and I anticipate it being more of a factor in the future.

In the US today there is an increasing number of shoplifting incidents at supermarkets and drive offs at gas stations without paying. Most gas stations in the Washington/Baltimore area have gone to prepay 24/7 to prevent non paying drive offs. I know in Oregon, where you live, the State mandates gas attendants so you probably see less of this activity. There is no doubt the bottom 20-25% of our population from an income standpoint are struggling worse then ever and it needs to be addressed or we're just going to turn hordes of normally law abiding citizens into criminals so they can survive.

I am a firm believer it is a governments obligation to make sure the citizens it is serving makes sure the basic needs of people are in reach. By basic needs I mean food staples, energy, housing and clothing. When these basic needs either can not be met through shortages or become too expensive for a large enough group of people that's when you see "food riots" like mentioned above.

What we have witnessed is a complete lack of government setting policies to ensure the basic needs of bottom tiers of our society can be met any longer. This is what is unforgivable. Globalization plays a part in this, but it is only a piece. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars fighting shadows every year, with no end in sight, plays a greater role in our plight. The dollar's weakness is directly tied into the fact the US has borrowed the money to fund Bush's war. The subprime mess just further weakened a dollar that was already sagging. OPEC's solution to a sagging dollar was just to raise the price of crude to make up for the losses they took on the dollar's decreased value. That is translating into higher gas prices which has a serious trickle down effect on trucking, airlines, commuters, farmers, etc., etc. Everything has to go up just to offset the increased energy costs producers are facing. Yet if you go to Venzuala gas is about 25 cents a gallon. Hmmmm, could this be because Chavez has some understanding of affordable basic needs? Probably.

This brings me back to my original post. Distribution is the problem. Our ability to produce food is equal to Saudi Arabia's ability to pump oil. Whether we're willing to do that has yet to be seen. Whether we're willing to put policies in place to ensure affordable food prices in this country is the real question. Do we encourage food production or do we continue to limit it?

berry, ecuador :

The problem is, mainly, economic. For many decades, the U.S. dollar has been the global trade currency, and most global investments are denominated in U.S. dollars. In recent years, the dollar's value has been falling, with two clear effects:

1.- Global inflation, as more dollars are needed to buy everything -oil, gold, rice, wheat, soybeans, etc.

2.- A global investment revolt, as investors are dumping their dollar-denominated assests, and buying commodities instead. So, each day, commodities' prices go higher, which makes tradidional dollar investments less attractive, which provides further incentives to dump those investments and buy commodities, which pushes the dollar's value even lower...

What can be done?

STABILIZE AND RESTORE THE DOLLAR'S VALUE !!!

How?

1. The Federal Reserve must STOP its policy of low interest rates, and begin behaving with some minimum responsibility. Easy money, at low interest rates, is the root of the current mess.

2. Balance the U.S. Federal budget. The decline of the dollar's value is closely linked to the federal deficit and the soaring federal debt. The higher the deficit and the debt, the lower the confidence in the dollar. Of course, balancing the budget requires rising taxes and cutting spending, particularly the stupid Iraq war.

3. Clean up the subprime mess. For years, U.S. banks have been selling junk -derivatives backed by subprime loans- to global investors. As long as those banks get away with their fraud, investors will keep the money away from the U.S., thus causing the dollar to continue its free fall.

We have discussed this topic for many months in the main WP forum. However, nothing happens. Washington is too busy gossiping about Clinton's sniper fire in Bosnia or Obama's bitterness, to get a clue on the food crisis. I'm afraid the world is running out of time to get things fixed.

MikeB :

BobL-VA - Corporations, as a part of the insane global economy, can scour the world, shopping for the cheapest labor and production costs, the most lax benefit, working condition, and environmental overhead. And they do. The effect of this has been a steady downward spiral of wages and benefits, degraded working conditions, and envirnomental disasters like global climate change happening on a pace that ought to concern everyone. We've all seen it, most of us have experienced it. Now, with the dirt cheap dollar, you are witnessing the same global economy working on food and oil. It will soon effect everything. In Japan, right now, the store shelves are empty of butter and lard. Why? Becasue the Chinese and others rather like our dairy products and pay more for them. In the U.S., the price of dairy products has gone up by 30% over the past year... and that was *before* the recent surge in transportation costs. Other basic's like flour and rice and corn, meat, eggs, beans, are sky rocketing. Rice has doubled, flour prices increased by 25%, etc. The same corporations that scour the world, looking for those cheap labor costs, are scouring the world, looking for ever higher prices for their foods, for oil, for steel and other metals. The result, right now, is inflation on a level not seen in this country ever. The result later this year will be shortages and hunger and a lot of anger that wil spill over and turn into riots and violence. If our **experiment** with the global economy does not end, it will mark the end of us. People need to get back to the Founding Father's idea of what "free enterprise" meant. Business exists to serve the needs of the country and our people, not the other way around. If a business refuses it's responsibility to this country, it has lost all right to any sort protection or access to the infrastructure of this country. We *can* remove patent and trade secret protections, add punative taxes on offshore investments and salaries, force (by ANY means) the opening of secret offshore bank accounts used by the rich to dodge their tax and other responsibilities, and much more. I know this sounds radical right now, but believe me, all of these things WILL be done, and done in the near future. The only question is, will the occur in time to save this country.

BobL-VA :

Food crisis? I sincerely doubt it. The planet has the arable land to sustain a population far greater then we have today. However, not all countries are blessed with adequate arable land. Therein lays the problem. Something approaching equitable distribution of food is the problem. This distribution problem has plagued civilization since recorded history started. Now all of a sudden (last 50 years) we're supposed to find a solution to an age old problem that has been riddled with corruption, incompetence, greed, geographical issues? Good luck.

As the flaming liberal that I am I am in favor of a better distribution system. At the same time I fully realize food is a commodity. Like oil or timber. Countries like the US, Canada and Australia, along with a few others, can and do produce far more food then their societies can consume. The US is already the worlds export leader in food by a large margin and has the capability of increasing this number any time it wants. People are starving around the world and we pay farmers not to plant in order to keep prices stable.

Personally, I would like to see a cartel set up by the food exporters of the world similar to OPEC for oil. The cartel could set prices, determine who to award food to in bad times and ensure distribution to the people who need it. Many of you may think this is turning food into politics and you are right, it is. So what? God knows we've turned everything else into a political football. Anything that stands a chance of a better distribution system has to be better then the mess of the non-system we have now.

MikeB :

What we are witnessing in the third world right now will be nothing compared to what the reaction of American's will be when general food shortages hit here - likely sometime in the spring of 2009. The socio-economic models show the poorer sectors of the U.S. economy experiencing this this coming Fall with riots and violence not seen since the 1960's. There are already some reports of shortages of some food items like flour and grain and rice. There are also increasing reports of hording of these items. The early breakout will likely be in California, Nevada, New Mexico, and other states with large illegal immigrant populations. The, illegals, of course, will simply be scape-goats for the real problem - the slow motion collapse of the U.S. economy due to a lack of jobs and our "loss" of technology and infrastructure (actually, it was strip mined by corporations and investors, but it's gone anyways). This will just get worse and will spread, because the government does not have the resources to cope with this. Everyone seems to think we can somehow keep the globalization bandwagon going, just tweek it a bit, or even "grow" our way out of this mess. China and India will dump their U.S. dollar reserves once they realize that we are broke. The rest of the world has been busily dumping U.S. investments and the move is on to preg the prices of oil to the Euro which will turn the exit of foreign investments here into a panicky flood. (This will occur *before* the November elections.) There is absolutely nothing we can do to prevent this, as of now, except to realize that the advocates and practitioners of free trade and globalization are traitors deserving of lengthy prison terms or the death penalty. This includes corporate managers and investors, newspaper pundits, and politicians, and foreign lobbiests. This may sound pessimistic to many of you, but it is actually an optimistic prediction. The pessimistic outlook has the entire West collapsing and a global conflict breaking out, with the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

Frances :

Population growth is certainly a problem but government corruption is a bigger problem. What good is it to bring food to countries like Haiti when it immediately lands on the black market?
We can take every reasonable preventative measure - family planning, increase crop growth, do away with crop subsidies - but in the end, the corrupt governments where starving people need the food the most, will rule the day - and the people will go hungry.
I have absolutely no confidence in the ability of the United Nations or other NGOs to solve this problem. In fact, they are probably part of the problem.

Lu Franklin :

The ultimate source of the looming chaos of famine and mass deaths, climate change, etc.: Exponential Growth of the Human Population.

Several of us who devoted our lives to research on reproduction have tried to alert the public of this coming man-made apocalypse. Unfortunately, like AIDS, the population bomb's disastrous effects have been emerging too slowly to sink into our brains!

Well . . .the bad news is that it is now too late to ward off the death and destruction that will result from disregard for family planning.

And, oh yes, dark ages dogma still spouted by the Pope and others who regard a single-cell fertilized human egg as a real, instead of potential human being has and is playing a major role in this already beginning chaos and misery.

misogynist :

I forgot an important point. Governments of underdeveloped and developing nations should take effective, I repeat effective, steps to control the over population, if you don't mind my saying so, like what China is doing.

misogynist :

How to solve the present food crisis? Only God Almighty can do something. But how this happened is because of the lack of vision or utter irresponsibility on the part of the governments. It is no use to blame the floods or draught to this state of affairs. The Governments should take appropriate measures to tackle such issues. The Governments should keep enough buffer stocks for such eventualities. Instead of running after too much industrialisation, under-developed countries should give more attention to agriculture. A farmer may not be a glamourous man like an engineer or a manager. But it is he who feeds the other. He should be given all incentives to do farming and have a decent living. He should get a good return by farming.Farm subsidies should never be stopped. Not the other way of giving subsidy for not farming.
Government should take effective steps to stop coverting prime agricultural land to grow cash crops. Such act should be dealt as a serious crime against the nation.
Every country should strive hard to be, as far as possible, self sufficient in food.
In under-developed countries food grains should be given to poor people at subsidised rate.

D. Hodara :

Whenever some serious problem appears on the world scene, everyone seems to realize, suddenly, that something is wrong.
The world problems are based on the following reasons :

1 - Governments managing our destinies are inclined to deal with problems on a day to day basis, instead of projecting them on the long term. This because politicians tend to be interested in their immediate election or reelection, and try to solve a problem, as best they can, to try to quiet public reactions and prepare their political immediate future.

2 - We have created a society based on power and money, where individuality and selfishness seem to represent a kind of protection to fight for a place in the sun and succedd in life. It is funny to see people wonder why this society is becoming violent and often ignoring the laws.

3 - On the first of January 1900, the world's population was about one billion two hundred and fifty thousand to one billion five hundred thousand. Homo Sapiens being about 40.000 years old, took that time to create the above numbers. Whilst on the first of January 2000 the world's population had reached six billions!!
This increase seems to have been ignored by the responsible politics of the past hundred years, instead of trying to adjust the infrastructures of the world to accomodate such an exponential increase. But day to day approach was already a going policy.

4 - When oil prices started to increase and environmental consciousness was growing, the politicians decided hurriedly to create a clean substition to oil - ethanol - using millions of tons of cereals. This again represented a day to day decision. We experience some of the consequences today.

5 - It is important to remember that hunger revolutions may have the most tragic and dangerous consequences, more than any other revolution. Also, billions of people are involved and the number alone is frightening.

The only solution, which may seem utopic, is that our governing bodies accept to realize that they have to unite in order to take, unanimously, the best decisons and, somehow, ignore each one's political, economical and financial interests, for the general interest. The world has become too small to allow each country to think only of its selfish interests, creating the antagonisms, hatreds and violence we observe today.

As human beings with the possibilty to learn of the mistakes made in the past, we must avoid repeating them and let the present violence increase to a boiling point.

daniel :

Food riots are breaking out worldwide. What impact do you see the food price explosion having on your region, politically and economically? What can be done about it?

I live in the U.S. and the impact the food price explosion is having on me personally is to reinforce my sense of being a vegetarian--and to eat sensible amounts of food (not too much).

Politically and economically food prices call into question the entire notion of human progress.

Strange this notion of human progress--it is quite recent in human history that this notion has come to exist and it is extremely fragile.

Recently presidential candidate Barack Obama was criticized for saying that small town folk in the U.S. turn to religion, guns, hostility toward outsiders, etc. out of economic discontent. Little do we know how accurate and honest he was being. If progress truly is viable then much of religion, war, hostility toward outsiders truly is passe...

Barack Obama was of course speaking of the worst, less tolerant aspects of religion...Guns and hostility toward outsiders should be self-explanatory...

Question: do we really believe in human progress, that things can get better on earth by human agency? If so, why do we cling to so much religion, belief in a better place after death? If so, why guns in our lives? If so, why so much nationality, territoriality?

The science of biology certainly calls into question the notion of progress. We have humans quite animal-like in their behavior and evolution tells us there is no certain "better outcome".

But enough pessimism. We do try to make things better. Our human freedom makes us strive to overcome determinants in our existence like natural disasters, shortages of food, the unconscious mind of Freud, deterministic accounts of history, genetic determinism. In short, we do strive to make things better.

So what can we do about food shortages? We can do two important things: reduce the human population and have a Manhatten project toward alternative fuels which do not cut into the food supply (fuels which do not use the acreage which should be used for food).

It seems technological advancement is the only real answer. It seems useless to expect humans to just rise out of being religious, territorial, etc. Humans will not rise out of the worst aspects of religion, nationalism, etc, until the notion of progress truly is believed in and actually possible.

Believe it or not, but the notion of progress has yet to have the force of religion, has yet to have religion combined with it in a new human urge where we believe we can make great changes on earth and these changes are blessed by God.

So far we only sort of believe in progress--and we have our belief in the afterlife (religion), guns and suspicions in the other hand (the hand behind our back).

So to conclude and to make simple, we had better embrace some sensible changes in human nature and certainly expect technological advancement or we can expect statements such as Barack Obama's to be all too true.

Food for thought.

Randy :

I agree with Mohammad and Betty, it seems that the cracks in the Industrial Revolution and the Mechanized Society are beginning to show. Victory Gardens seem to be the way of the immediate future, until we stablize and get lazy and dependent on commerce to meet our needs again.

I'm reading about alternative agriculture schemes, like permaculture, that makes me wonder why aren't the protesters spending their time doing what's known as "guerilla gardening", reclaiming urban areas for food production. "Three sisters" type production is very nutritious, low on inputs, and low in land needs.

I believe we could feed way more people than we currently have, if we put the investment into ecological (read: management intensive) cultivation of the planet rather than convienence foods and excessive technology.

Thank you.

Betty Hamilton :

There is an article in today's NY Times on rice production in Australia. I suggest we may all be raising our own food, as much as possible sooner than we might guess. It takes only small shortfalls to cause serious price increases of commodities, and with fluctuation of currency values (i.e., the weak dollar) combined with perhaps misdirected emphasis on biofuel, it could get very hard to afford food, very quickly, even in this country.

As the article in NY Times noted, former rice farmers are beginning to raise wine grapes, in large part because the return per acre is much greater. Rice can feed the world, wine cannot.

Lu Franklin :

THE PRIME PROBLEM IS OBVIOUS, BUT CANNOT EVEN BE DISCUSSED BECAUSE OF RELIGION'S STUPID STAND AGAINST FAMILY PLANNING!

IT'S EXPONENTIAL GROWTH OF THE HUMAN POPULATION - DUH!

WE ARE (HAVE) CREATING OUR OWN ARMAGEDDON!

mohammad_allam :

Too much emphasis on industralisation by neglecting agriculture .More investment in luxerious product than the food production.Emergence of greedy MNC to dominate the rural economy.
change the concept of economic development from idustrial sector to agricultural based development.More trasfer of investment in agricultural sectors.End of the forcible marketig of product of MNc.More and more subsidies to the farmers and more sucure market.End of the money lender monopoly by providing more credit to them.

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PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.