The research coming from the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) this month reflects previous concerns I’ve made in earlier articles,,,, about the relationships of biofuels and commodities market speculation with food prices and the mechanisms driving these prices upward. Although the evidence doesn’t unequivocally confirm these concerns, this NECSI research paper is a stepping stone toward a general theory of what I’d like to call “ecodynamics”: namely, the study of the interactions of capital flows with natural resources. The abstract of the paper summarizes the fundamental argumentative thread which is worthy of peer-reviewed investigation:
In a previous paper published in September 2011, we constructed for the first time a dynamic model that quantitatively agreed with food prices. Specifically, the model fit the FAO Food Price Index time series from January 2004 to March 2011, inclusive. The results showed that the dominant causes of price increases during this period were investor speculation and ethanol conversion.
Timothy A. Wise (director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and Environment Institute — Tufts University) posted this very informative article on his “Triple Crisis” weblog (6 March 2012) regarding the NECSI data and food price model. A year earlier, he wrote another succinct piece on food price volatility that initially captured my interest and led me to the NECSI paper mentioned above.