New wheat crisis plagues world food supply

According to a blog at blogs.moneycentral.msn.com, “If it seems like you are paying more for your cereal, beer and pizza lately, shake your fist in the direction of Pakistan, Uganda and Argentina, because a weird confluence of international events are combining to slash the world supply of wheat and boost prices. The downside of globalization is that a crop failure 10,000 miles away can lead to pricier brewskis here.”

“It’s actually a lot more serious than that. The New Scientist magazine reports that a wheat disease that started in central Africa actually threatens to destroy most of the world wheat crop, leaving millions to starve. A fungus called Ug99 has already spread from Africa to Iran and is bearing down on Pakistan, according to the report. This is bad news because Pakistan and Punjab wheat is extremely important to the entire food chain of the densely populous plains of South Asia,” said the blog. “According to reports, scientists hope to slow the spread of Ug99 by spraying new forms of fungicide but the only real firebreak will come when agronomists are able to create Ug99-resistant strains of wheat over the next few years. The disease, which is said to be a super-strong strain of black stem rust,first came to light in Uganda in 1999 and has since ruined crops in Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen. Now winds are expected to take the spores to Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Iran. Chinese scientists are said to be on a crash program to develop Ug99-resistant wheat strains before the disease ravages its already weakened croplands.”

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