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The Washington Post reported over the weekend that "the Bush administration and Congress have been caught flat-footed by rapidly escalating global food prices and are scrambling to respond to a crisis that they increasingly view as a threat to U.S. national security, according to government officials, congressional staffers and human rights experts." The national security aspect, the story says, comes because " many of the affected countries -- including Egypt, Indonesia and two of the world's nuclear powers, India and Pakistan -- are of strategic interest to Washington."

The Bush White House already has released $200 million (US) in emergency wheat stores for developing countries, and reportedly plans "further steps to help ease the burden of rising food prices on the world's neediest people," with options that include "building more overseas storage facilities and roads to reduce food spoiling, and making the food crisis a top priority for the G-8 summit of industrialized nations in July."

Addressing the problem is difficult, however, in part because the US government is coming to it late, but also because the US is in the middle of a presidential election cycle that is likely to make it difficult for Congress and he White House to agree on anything.

And, the cost of food around the world gets even more complicated as nations attempt to come to grips with the impact of a global supply chain on the environment. The New York Times reported over the weekend that "food has moved around the world since Europeans brought tea from China, but never at the speed or in the amounts it has over the last few years. Consumers in not only the richest nations but, increasingly, the developing world expect food whenever they crave it, with no concession to season or geography." But now that the carbon footprint left by the global supply chain can be measured, the Times writes, "many economists, environmental advocates and politicians say it is time to make shippers and shoppers pay for the pollution, through taxes or other measures."

KC's View:
They say that one of the biggest problems that the modern food industry has to face is shopper expectations, that people in most industrialized nations have grown to expect that every food they want will always be available…and that we are rapidly approaching the time that this may no longer be the case.