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When Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire Dec. 17, 2010, it was in protest at heavy-handed treatment and harassment in his province. But a host of new studies suggest that a major factor in the subsequent uprisings that became known as the Arab Spring was food insecurity.

Drought, rocketing bread prices, food and water shortages have all blighted parts of the Middle East. Analysts at the Center for American Progress in Washington say a combination of food shortages and other environmental factors are exacerbating the already tense politics of the region. An unpublished U.S. government study indicates that the world needs to prepare for much more of the same as food prices spiral and long-standing agricultural practices are disrupted by climate change.

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