By Evan Fraser, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Evan Fraser holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security at the University of Guelph and is the author of Empires of Food. You can visit his website here. The views expressed are his own.
This week’s headlines may have been dominated by the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, but three seemingly unrelated stories that have developed over the past week might have much broader and long lasting implications for the international community.
The first story is that of the terrible drought that is currently affecting large parts of the Middle East. According to U.N. analysts, two thirds of the arable land in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian territories are now extremely dry, and the United Nations is expected to declare the winter of 2013-14 the worst in terms of rainfall in decades. This will almost certainly prompt many countries in the region to turn to international wheat markets as a way of compensating for local production shortfalls.
This leads to the second story, namely the escalating crisis in Ukraine, which is significant for two reasons. First, if tensions between Russia and the West continue, it seems increasingly likely that trade sanctions against Russia will be imposed. Second, the disruption in Crimea could affect Ukraine's ability to export wheat since the Crimean region is a major route by which eastern European grain arrives on international markets.
Fareed speaks with Anthony Bourdain, renowned chef, food critic and host of Parts Unknown, for his take on the world's greatest city to dine out in. Watch the Tokyo edition of Parts Unknown this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNN.
You go to Tokyo, you have been many times. I think most will be surprised to know that the city that gets the most Michelin three stars is not Paris, is not New York, but Tokyo. Do you agree with that?
Tokyo is the great...
If I would ask ten great chefs that I know around the world what city in the world would you like – if you had to be stuck in one city and eat every meal there for the rest of your life, where would that be – nine out of ten would say Tokyo. There’s a level of perfectionism, attention to detail, quality ingredients and tradition and technique that's really unlike any place else.
It's endlessly deep subject and with the show that I did there most recently, we tried to draw a direct line between that excellence and attention to detail – that fetishism, really, for food and quality with the sort of subterranean repressed ids of the Japanese male. So it's probably going to be a parental advisory type show.
By Jason Miks
GPS digital producer Jason Miks poses readers’ questions to noted chef, food critic and globe-trotting TV presenter Anthony Bourdain about the second series of Parts Unknown, a chef’s place in society and whether governments should tell us what we should and shouldn’t eat. The new season of Parts Unknown begins this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
You’ve been to many of the destinations in the upcoming season before. Is it difficult to bring something new to each episode?
Certainly the challenge is to find a new way to tell what could be a similar story. But I particularly enjoy going to a place like Los Angeles, or Spain – places that have already been looked at – and trying to find a unique perspective. Whether it’s an individual story, or just a new way of looking at it. Or taking a different view, either a tighter focus or a wider one. That’s an enviable challenge. It’s part of the fun of making the show – finding new ways to tell these stories.
Is there any place in the upcoming series that surprised you? That really showed you something new?
I’ve been to Tokyo many times, but it’s such a bottomless, bottomless source of interesting things to look at, new perspectives. It’s just such a multi-layered, multi-textured place. I’ve described the experience of going to Tokyo as a hallucinatory experience, in both the good and bad sense of that word. And I think this latest Tokyo show was surprising to me. It was shocking to me. And I think it will be both those things to viewers.
Did you ever consider another career?
No, I was a happy dishwasher. Dishwashing saved my life. I fell into the restaurant business. I was a messed up, undisciplined kid. The restaurant business supplied really the only structure and order in my life, and was the only sort of system that I respected. Everything important I learned in my life, I learned in the restaurant business. So I think I needed that first, before I ever dared dream about doing anything else.
'Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown' premieres Sunday on CNN at 9 p.m. ET.
Renowned U.S. chef, food critic and Emmy-winning globe trotter Anthony Bourdain tells GPS digital producer Jason Miks his top food cities, and answers readers’ questions about where he’d like to visit, the country that most surprised him, and what he won’t eat. You can also watch Fareed's interview with Anthony on GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
Locals appearing on your shows generally seem kind and hospitable, says ‘Sarah Harvard’ on Facebook. She asks whether there is anywhere that you have felt unwelcome, especially as an American?
Over the years, there have been times when the mood has been substantially paranoid – people shy away from the camera or are even hostile to anyone with a camera. There are times when people are not particularly welcoming to Americans or any foreigners. Romania, Russia, Uzbekistan – former Iron Curtain countries. The Soviets really put the screws to people in a lot of ways. And even all these years later, Romania was often uncomfortable.
Russia is seldom welcoming, so you have to put in extra work. If you’re going to make friends and make Russians open up – not to play to the stereotype, but it’s true there – you’ve pretty much got to knock back half a bottle of vodka with the subject before you get to the scene. When we first went into Iraq, the mood in England, France, Germany and Australia was dubious. If you were looking for an overtly pro-American greeting you would strangely have to go to China.
So yes, it’s happened – not every group is well-disposed to outsiders. A lot of places just don’t like strangers and it’s a bit of a struggle. Often, it requires extra alcohol.
Editor’s note: Evan Fraser is an associate professor of geography at the University of Guelph in Canada and author of Empires of Food: Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations. The views expressed are his own.
With this summer’s terrible weather decimating America’s corn crop, pundits are suggesting that a food crisis is brewing. This isn’t an idle concern. In 2008, soaring food prices prompted sometimes violent unrest in dozens of countries. In 2010, drought and wildfire destroyed 25 percent of Russia’s wheat; the Kremlin banned grain exports. This sent food prices up, too, triggering the first protests in Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt that ultimately formed the Arab Spring. Now, drought in the United States has wiped out between 20 percent and 30 percent of what corn farmers thought they were going to harvest, while corn prices have soared to all-new highs.
Will this year’s events send crowds into the streets to topple governments?
Two U.N. reports published earlier this month shed contradictory light on this question. The first report is optimistic. The September Food Price Index published by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)shows that the price of food did not rise between July and August. More importantly, the price of cereals, when taken as a whole, remained stable. This is very good news. And while cereals are still expensive relative to historic levels, prices are a bit below those that sparked riots in 2008 and 2010. One reason for this is that thanks to good harvests last year and the year before, we have a fair bit of food stored, and hence have a bit of a buffer. Jose Graziano da Silva, the director general of the FAO, stated “This is reassuring…although we should remain vigilant, current prices to do not justify talk of a world food crisis.”
By Yanzhong Huang, CFR
Yanzhong Huang is senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Asia Unbound originally appeared here. The views expressed are the author's own.
Last month, in the 2012 FIVB World Grand Prix Finals, China’s women’s volleyball team fell to countries that did not even qualify for the 2008 Olympics, where China won Bronze. The coach blamed his team’s abysmal performance on their vegetarian diet, saying that the athletes had not had any meat for three weeks. The players were certainly not vegetarians: they abstained from meat lest contamination of chemicals such as clenbuterol interfere with their urine tests. The excuse was not as lousy as it initially sounded: early this year, China’s State General Administration of Sports issued a document forbidding its athletes from consuming meat outside of official training facilities.
The sports incidence epitomizes the rapidly rising concerns about food safety in China. Twenty years ago, with the exception of the few expats living in China, few there would consider food safety a problem. Today, almost everybody I spoke with in China – people I knew well and those I did not – expressed their concern about adulterated food. My speculation that food safety problems in China have worsened is substantiated by the website “Throw out of window” created by Wu Heng, a postgraduate of Fudan University, to track China’s food safety incidents from 2004 to 2011. In the spring of 2012, a survey carried out in 16 major Chinese cities asked urban residents to list “the most worrisome safety concerns.” Food safety topped the list (81.8 percent), followed by public security (49 percent), medical care safety (36.4 percent), transportation safety (34.3 percent), and environmental safety (20.1 percent).
By Isobel Coleman, CFR
Isobel Coleman is a senior fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy and director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Democracy in Development originally appeared here. The views expressed are her own.
Global food prices are spiking upwards because of widespread drought in the U.S., the breadbasket of the world. Nearly 80 percent of the country’s corn crops and over 11 percent of its soybean crops – which are major exports for the U.S. and an important source of animal feed – have been affected. Last month, soybean and corn prices were at record-breaking highs. Poor weather conditions in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine are also inflating global wheat prices; these countries typically produce around one-quarter of the world’s wheat exports. The U.S. itself exports more wheat, corn, and soybeans than any other country.
Editor’s Note: Gordon G. Chang is a columnist at Forbes.com. He is the author of The Coming Collapse of China and Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World. Follow him on Twitter.
By Gordon G. Chang - Special to CNN
On Friday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner announced that after North Korea’s failed but highly provocative long-range missile test, the U.S. would not provide “nutritional assistance” to the troubled state as contemplated by an agreement announced February 29. The operating assumption in Washington is that food aid helps the regime now headed by Kim Jong Un.
In some ways, that assumption is correct. Aid, after all, is fungible. Every dollar of food assistance means Kim’s government can devote one less buck to lowland agriculture and one more to improving the obvious defects of its long-range missiles.
There are many things that the Obama administration should be doing to stop North Korea’s missile program, but refusing to feed hungry and victimized people is not one of them. FULL POST
Editor's Note: The following text is from GlobalPost, which provides excellent coverage of world news – important, moving and just odd.
In what Starbucks says was a move intended to reduce its use of artificial ingredients, the coffee giant has started using cochineal extract to supply its Frappuccinos with their special strawberry color, according to ABC News.
The Daily Mail in Britain reports the company released a statement that explains they are using cochineal extract, which is derived from the ground up bodies of insects, as a way to give their popular drink that bright rosy, pink hue.
Cochineal dye has been used as a coloring agent since the 15th century, said ABC News, and is considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration. It is currently used as a way to color meat, alcoholic drinks, cookies and cheese. However, the World Health Organization, said it can cause asthma in some people, and in some others an allergic reaction.
In response to questions about whether the Strawberry Frappuccino was vegan, Starbucks wrote we "have the goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products. While the strawberry base isn't a vegan product, it helps us move away from artificial dyes."
By Hilary Whiteman, CNN
In the hours before President Obama strode up to the podium to deliver his State of the Union Address, Bill Gates was quietly publishing his own thoughts for the year ahead.
Well, he was doing it as quietly as Bill Gates does anything.
Posting a link to his letter on Twitter, the businessman, philanthropist and regular entry on world rich lists wrote: “We cannot tolerate a world in which 1 in 7 people is undernourished, undernourished (sic), stunted, and in danger of starving to death.”
The chairman of software giant Microsoft calls on the world to accelerate the “Green Revolution” started by the late Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug in the 1960s.
“We can be more innovative about delivering solutions that already exist to the farmers who need them,” he writes. “Knowledge about managing soil and tools like drip irrigation can help poor farmers grow more food today.” FULL POST
By Olav Mellingsater - Special to CNN
A higher demand for butter as a result of low-carb diets and increased interest in natural, home-cooked meals is one reason for the shortage, according to Tine, the country's largest farmer-owned dairy cooperative.
A rainy summer reduced the quality of animal feed, decreasing milk production in Norway this year by 20 million liters (5.3 million gallons) compared with the same period last year, the cooperative said.
The Norwegian government has responded to the crisis by reducing tariffs on milk product imports, the country's agricultural authorities said.
But many stores have been rationing how much butter they sell.
Read on here.
By Jason Overdorf, GlobalPost
At the DLF Place mall in the upscale South Delhi neighborhood of Saket, shoppers and employees sit more or less side-by-side in a new “desi” food court, digging into traditional Indian dishes ranging from biryani to dosas to seekh kebabs.
There's something for everybody — at many tables three generations are sitting down together. But that's not the reason these traditional upstarts have succeeded in storming what was once the bastion of western brands like McDonald's and Pizza Hut.
Some of the city's most famous restaurants are represented here — some of them a century old — transformed by smart uniforms, cheery signage and shining show kitchens to look every bit as clean, efficient and modern as their multinational competitors. Welcome to the future of Indian fast food. FULL POST
The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, leading journalists at CNN, and other international thinkers. Join GPS editor Jason Miks and get informed about global issues, exposed to unique stories, and engaged with diverse and original perspectives.
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Obama as a foreign policy president?
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Hillary Clinton's truly hard choice
China's trapped transition
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