Now some see the same danger and disquiet gathering in world capitals as grain prices escalate once again. Except this time there's one key difference: so far, no panic.
Nations around the world have learned some valuable lessons since 2008. More of them have been stocking their larders and preparing for a new global reality driven by increasingly erratic weather and growing demand.
This is not to say the latest droughts are having no impact around the world's dinner tables. Far from it. In countries where a 20 percent increase in the price of a loaf of bread or a sack of rice is often the difference between keeping children in school, setting a little money aside for emergencies, and staving off hunger, the political and social repercussions are still being felt.
Yet 2012 is providing a window into how far the world has come in dealing with the fluctuations of the weather and the interdependence of world food supplies – and how far it still needs to go. The pressures to improve the system will only increase. The planet is growing hotter and drier, and the global population stands at 7 billion and counting.
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Long gone are the days when the world's population was subject solely to the whims of local crops and climate. The green revolution of the 20th century, which generated spectacular increases in grain yields, and the advent of cheap shipping created a global food market that's transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
But it also means that a bad year for farmers in the United States or Russia or Australia can ripple out quickly and become a disastrous year for consumers in Egypt or Indonesia.