Thursday, October 13, 2011

More connections between food and the Occupy movements

Great post from Civil Eats. In response to many activists' question, "What does the Occupy Movement have to do with food?" some of my favorite answers:

• In the U.S. today, the richest one percent hold 40 percent of the wealth, while almost one in five Americans is on food stamps.  Rampant Wall Street speculation on commodities is driving up food costs, small farmers are being driven off their land, and agribusiness holds monopoly control of our seeds and stores.

• At the most obvious level, as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy recently wrote, “Wall Street deregulation has not only made the stock market extremely volatile, it has increased prices and price volatility in agricultural markets.” That is, the relationship between government and Wall Street firms has turned food into commodity like any other, subject to the whims of the market. 

• In 2000, a wave of industry-backed deregulation raised and then removed these limits on speculation, which opened commodity markets to a flood of new players—these later included funds controlled by some of the biggest Wall Street firms looking for new investment opportunities after the housing bubble burst. Flooded with new investments unconnected to any direct stake in crop prices, in 2008, the commodity markets exploded, driving up grain prices worldwide. The grain price spikes were catastrophic for millions of people worldwide. Farmers, who sometimes benefit from high grain prices, mostly were no better off, because similarly skyrocketing energy prices also drove up prices of agricultural inputs.

• Wall Street firms aren’t just gambling on food prices, they have begun speculating on land as well. Alerted to the potential market in agriculture, investors are buying up huge parcels of farmland all over the world, displacing the occupants, and converting subsistence production to cash crops—or, worse, simply leaving the land fallow and waiting for its value to increase. 

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