According to Bar-Yam and colleagues, by September 2010 there was 140 million metric tons of grain sitting unsold in storage facilities around the world, an amount that would normally feed 440 million people in a single year.
In the face of widespread global hunger, playing with food prices as if it were a casino pushed them beyond the ability of people to pay in regions of the direst need. Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, has called this “a silent mass murder,” entirely due to “man-made actions.”
“We have a herd of market traders, speculators and financial bandits who have turned wild and constructed a world of inequality and horror. We have to put a stop to this,” he said.
The model that Bar-Yam and colleagues developed had earlier predicted the uprisings popularly known as the Arab Spring.
On December 13, 2010 the researchers submitted a report to Congress warning of the link between rising food prices and global unrest. Just days later uprisings began in Tunisia followed soon after by Libya and Egypt, eventually spreading to 30 countries and toppling multiple governments.
However, Bar-Yam and colleagues also predict that if global food prices continue to rise at their current rate the threshold that resulted in uprisings in the Arab world will become global between July 2012 and August 2013. In this context, the riots in London could be an early warning of greater conflagrations to come.