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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone October 26, 2022

Food shortage simulation planned to solve, not create, global crisis

If Your Time is short

  • In 2015, 65 international researchers, policymakers, business leaders and others participated in a simulation called “Food Chain Reaction: A Global Food Security Game.”

  • The game simulated a real-world global food crisis and had participants work together to best respond. Lessons learned were shared in a report in hopes of helping decision-makers prevent and address potential food shortages.

  • Current high food prices and instability are driven by inflation, Russia’s war in Ukraine and other factors, not anything that happened in this simulation.

When 65 researchers, policymakers and others from around the world gathered in Washington, D.C., in November 2015, they had a common goal — devise ways to ensure ready access to nutritious food, all around the world. 

In a two-day, role-playing simulation called "Food Chain Reaction: A Global Food Security Game," they explored how leaders, countries and private industry could best work together to respond to a future world food crisis.

Now, with food prices climbing worldwide and supply hampered by the war in Ukraine, one social media user alleged the event was no simulation at all — and that participants had something far more sinister in mind.

"Over the course of this weekend, they discussed how this food shortage would begin in 2020 and go through 2030, with food prices skyrocketing to over 400%. Think about that for a minute," a woman in an Oct. 12 Instagram video said.

"Think about the record number of food plants being attacked — I’m sorry, accidents — of planes crashing into them, explosions," she continued. "None of this was planned though. Nothing was planned in a simulation in 2015, right? Something to think about."

The Instagram post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The video grossly distorts the intent of the simulation, descriptions of which have been online for seven years. The only planning that happened was finding ways to best respond to a global food crisis. The video also falsely asserts that U.S. food plants are under attack, a claim we’ve tackled twice before.

In 2015, teams from the U.S., the European Union, Brazil, China, continental Africa and India — as well as a team of multilateral organizations and a team of businesses and investors —  gathered at the World Wildlife Fund headquarters in Washington for a role-playing exercise.

The mission was seeing how participants would respond to a future simulated crisis beginning in 2020, when global food systems were threatened by population growth, rapid urbanization, extreme weather and political crises.

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The players "collaborated, negotiated, made decisions, and confronted trade-offs while dealing with the consequences of their actions between 2020 and 2030," according to the final report on their findings and recommendations. 

According to game designer CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, that time period was selected because it was "near enough to be familiar, but distant enough to allow players to focus beyond current policy debates."

Throughout the game, participants had to respond to food production disruptions that led to rapid price increases, food shortages and civil unrest.

The game was "designed to help high-level decision-makers better understand the interdependencies of food, climate, trade and political stability, and the cascading effects of collective and individual policy decisions," said the report.

The report concluded that although there’s no single solution to food security issues, "proactive, cooperative and balanced approaches" are key to preventing future crises.

According to the World Bank, the war in Ukraine has altered global patterns in trade, production and consumption that will keep prices high through the end of 2024. The prices have triggered a global crisis that is driving millions more people into extreme poverty, magnifying hunger and malnutrition, the World Bank said in an Oct. 17 update on food security. 

The U.S. is facing high food prices but not a food shortage, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nor are food production plants under attack, despite claims that have tried to turn routine fires, bird deaths from the avian flu and accidents into a conspiracy by an unnamed enemy to intentionally starve Americans. 

Our ruling

An Instagram video claims that a 2015 food shortage simulation was actually an attempt to plan problems with food prices and security that are happening today.

But that distorts the mission of the simulation, which  had participants work together to solve a global food shortage, then pass what they’d learned to decision-makers. The simulation has nothing to do with current events affecting food prices and instability, and U.S. food plants are not under attack, as we’ve written before.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

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Food shortage simulation planned to solve, not create, global crisis

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