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Rising food costs are a key reason behind rioting.

There’s no doubt that rising food prices in a specific area can lead to rioting. We have plenty of current and historic examples of that. But some interesting new research highlighted in Technology Review shows that once average global food prices cross a certain threshold a tipping point is reached after which “almost anything can trigger a riot, like a lighted match in a dry forest.”

Check out this graph which plots the UN Food Price Index against the dates of riots around the world…

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Currently food prices are above the threshold identified by the researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute, but the long-term trend remains below the riot threshold. However, if things continue as they are going, by August 2013 the long term trend will cross this tipping point.

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