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Climate Change Raising Corn Prices, Pushing Up Costs Of Other Foods

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After Earth Day on Sunday, you probably heard a lot of reasons why you should be worried about climate change. Well, here's another: It's probably going to make putting dinner on the table more difficult.

As temperatures rise, so does the price of corn, according to research recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change (h/t The New York Times).

It turns out corn prices are pretty sensitive to climate change, the NCC authors write. In fact, they're more strongly affected by things like temperature and growing conditions than they are by, say, U.S. energy policy, which just a few years ago was seen as the main culprit for corn price spikes.

That's the bad news. And here's some news that's even worse: When corn prices go up, so do the costs of most other things.

Corn underpins a huge amount of what Americans eat and drink these days. In syrup form, it sweetens soda, cookies, condiments, jam and bread; in feed form, it sustains a lot of the livestock that ends up at the butcher counter.

Sooner or later, many economists believe, rising corn prices tend to ripple out and make all these products more expensive.

That's worrying news at a time when more than one out of every six Americans is already struggling to put food on the table, and when an estimated 17 million children in the U.S. lack access to proper nutrition.

Soybean prices are also climbing, making food more expensive and less available -- not just in the U.S., but all over the world. That, in turn, has troubling political implications. High food prices tend to be associated with civic instability -- many analysts, for example, say food costs played a major role in the revolutions that swept the Arab world a year ago.

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Media Digest (4/23/2012) Reuters, WSJ, NYT, FT, Bloomberg