Found this on the Ricks blog. A guy from NECSI
came up with a quantitative model that seems to predict global food prices and knock-on social effects. He places blame primarily on speculation and redirection of food crops to ethanol production.
From the actual study:
In 2008 and 2011 increases in global food prices triggered hunger, food riots and social unrest in North Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere, at a cost to global stability which policy makers can no longer ignore. Over the past decade, world unrest has sharply increased at time of peak food prices; now the long-term price trend is getting close to what used to be episodic peaks.
According to the new study, the next food price peak will take place in about a year. The results will be dramatically higher prices than we have encountered thus far. The study warns that should ethanol production continue to grow according to multiyear trends, even the underlying trend will reach social-crisis levels in just one year.
NECSI is “an independent academic research and educational institution [with] co-faculty, students and affiliates from MIT, Harvard, Brandeis and other universities nationally and internationally.”