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Endless Appetites: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest

ISBN: 978-1-118-16959-9
320 pages
September 2011
Endless Appetites: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest (111816959X) cover image
How to understand the twenty-first century food crisis

Since 2007, farm-product prices have rocketed and plunged, causing hunger, malnutrition, and social and political upheaval around the world. Endless Appetites explores how "food security," the availability of food and the reasonable ability to buy it, has become one of the most challenging topics of our time. With every jump in grocery-store prices, the issue becomes more and more pressing, proven by this year's record increase in food prices, which has already topped the spike of 2008.

  • Award-winning commodities reporter Alan Bjerga explains the food crisis and why it is happening in an accessible, articulate manner
  • Why is this happening when more food is being grown than ever?
  • Why are crop markets first established in the 1800's to help stabilize agricultural commodity prices acting like an investors' casino, with prices absorbed by rich nations taking food from the mouths of the poor?
  • From college campuses to emergency UN meetings, "food security" is one of the hottest topics of the day, with no shortage of interest in how to stabilize food prices worldwide to close the hunger gap

To understand the growing international food crisis, readers need an expert they can rely on. One of the most widely acclaimed journalists on food security, Alan Bjerga is up to the task, taking readers from the trading floor of Chicago to the highlands of East Africa to the rice paddies of Thailand on a global trek to find the causes of the food-price crisis and the solutions.

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Author’s Note viii

Prologue xi

CHAPTER 1: Floors, Fields, and Famines 1

CHAPTER 2: Chicago Makes a Market 13

CHAPTER 3: Elephants in the Kiddie Pool 25

CHAPTER 4: A Recipe for Famine 39

CHAPTER 5: The View from Rome 51

CHAPTER 6: Hot Air 65

CHAPTER 7: Promise 79

CHAPTER 8: The Price of a Cup of Coffee 97

CHAPTER 9: A Better Banana 113

CHAPTER 10: Thai Quality 131

CHAPTER 11: Steps Up 147

CHAPTER 12: Harvest of Hope 159

Notes 169

Acknowledgments 189

About the Author 191

Index 193

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Alan Bjerga has covered food and agricultural issues for more than a decade for Knight-Ridder Newspapers and Bloomberg News. He won the Glenn Cunningham Agricultural Journalist of the Year Award from the North American Agricultural Journalists in 2005. In 2009, he was recognized for covering U.S. food aid and famine in Ethiopia by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the North American Agricultural Journalists, the New York Press Club, and the Overseas Press Club. In 2010, Bjerga was President of the National Press Club and the North American Agricultural Journalists.

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"“Endless Appetites is ideal for someone interested economics and global markets, packed as it is with numbers. But the information in this book is important for anyone who is concerned about the future of our food supply—which should probably be all of us.”
Serious Eats!

"Worth checking out … Based on the author's personal visits to farmers around the world, Bjerga explains how the crisis happened (short answer: greed), it’s tragic effects, and what now has to be done to reverse them."
The Atlantic

"Some of Bjerga’s best writing is about the inner workings of the Chicago Board of Trade and other markets, and when he brings American agricultural history into the story of what other countries have not had and do not have to encourage stable agricultural development. … Bjerga’s skill is in the way he forces the reader to make connections between aspects of agriculture that do not normally appear together. And the book is chock full of unusual observations."
AgWeek

“My Thanksgiving holiday book discovery will become Christmas season reading. ... Lest you think this is just another rant at financial and trading institutions, be aware that Bjerga is a veteran commodities writer and Washington correspondent."
Lee Egerstrom in Hindsight: The Minnesota 2020 Blog

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