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A sales assistant arranges fruit in a supermarket in the Philippines. Photo: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Global food prices aren't leaving any wiggle room for bad harvests or demand spikes.

The state of play: A UN index of food prices "has reached its highest since September 2011, climbing almost 5% last month," reports Bloomberg. Another tracker of "prices from grains to sugar and coffee is up 70% in the past year."

Why it matters: The real threat comes in countries where large portions of the population live close to the edge of hunger, Axios' Bryan Walsh wrote.

  • Even in the U.S., rising prices hit the poorest Americans, who spend more than one-third of their income on food.
  • "The pain could be particularly pronounced in some of the poorest import-dependent nations," Bloomberg reports.

The big picture: COVID-related labor disruptions probably aren't helping, but climate change-related shifts in precipitation and temperatures are expected to lead to more volatile food production in the coming years, Axios' Andrew Freedman tells me.

  • That volatility can destabilize fragile countries. This already played out, studies show, with the Syrian Civil War, which began during a severe drought.
  • A study found that rising temperatures in countries of origin increased the number of people seeking asylum in the EU, Axios Science editor Alison Snyder noted.

Go deeper

Sep 8, 2021 - Health

WHO director calls for countries to halt booster shots through end of year

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The World Health Organization on Wednesday doubled down on calls for wealthy countries with large supplies of coronavirus vaccines to forgo booster shots through the end of the year.

The big picture: The WHO director's comments come as the Biden administration weighs offering COVID booster shots later this month, and as a global vaccine disparity persists.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. and NATO answer Putin in writing while bracing for Ukraine invasion

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The U.S. and NATO provided Russia with written proposals on Wednesday to advance a "diplomatic path forward," even as they warned that Russia could invade Ukraine within days.

Why it matters: This is a delicate diplomatic balancing act. The U.S. and NATO want to show they're serious about diplomacy but unwilling to compromise on "core principles" — all without providing Vladimir Putin with an additional pretext for escalation.

The political leanings of the Supreme Court justices

Data: Martin-Quinn scores; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Supreme Court will continue to have a solid conservative majority even with Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement.

How to read the chart: An analysis by political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn, known as the Martin-Quinn Score, places judges on an ideological spectrum. A lower score indicates a more liberal justice, whereas a higher score indicates a more conservative justice.