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Global trade volume decreased how much in 2009?

This week's quiz question:

The volume of global trade decreased how much in 2009?

a) 3 percent    b) 12 percent    c) 23 percent

Answer after the jump …

B, 12 percent. In the biggest decline since World War II, the volume of global trade contracted 12.2 percent, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), with the primary cause being a huge drop in global demand. Since 1965, trade volume has fallen only three other times: 1975 (-7 percent), 1982 (-2 percent), and 2001 (-0.2 percent) -- see the graph below. In terms of dollar value, world merchandise trade fell 23 percent, mostly due to falls in the prices of oil and other commodities. Generally, though, volume is better for year-to-year comparisons because volume isn't distorted by currency and commodity-price fluctuations.

The good news, according to the WTO: This year exports are estimated to grow 9.5 percent in terms of volume. That's not enough to cancel out last year's plunge, but if the growth continued in 2011, then trade volume would surpass its 2008 peak.

Trade to expand by 9.5% in 2010 after a dismal 2009, WTO reports | World Trade Organization, March 26, 2010

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U.N. policy paper encourages farming insects for food

If you've ever considered paring a fresh garden salad with a hearty serving of mealworm quiche, you may be in luck. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is reviewing a policy paper, written by a Dutch entomologist Arnold van Huis, which argues for consuming more insects. His rationale is entirely logical: Bugs are cheaper to feed; high in protein and calcium; and much less of an environmental burden than livestock like cows, pigs, and chickens. Insects are also biologically different from humans, thus less susceptible to contagious diseases. And - there are about 1,400 edible bugs in the world.

In the first phase of the program, van Huis proposes feeding more insects to farmed animals and then gradually introducing bugs to Western diets: "We're looking at ways of grinding the meat into some sort of patty, which would be more recognizable to western palates," he said. Van Huis is also partial to cricket pies, fried grasshoppers, and mealworm quiche. "Sauced crickets in a warm chocolate dip make a great snack," he said in an interview.

U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization has already started a pilot program in Laos. About 80% of the world already eats insects - now it's just a matter of convincing those who don't. While this may be entirely sensible, good luck to the unfortunate public relations person at the U.N. who's in charge of making this idea appealing.

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