Commentary

Speculation That Counts

By Blair Jackson |

Wars are started by hungry people.

Whether that hunger is for power, money, security — or in the most basic and literal sense — for food.

Before you wave the idea aside, consider the rising food prices that led to the political unrest in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

Here, in our more industrialized country, anxiety has been caused by rising food and gas prices. In February, almost 30,000 people in Washington County received government assistance for food. These numbers do not include those who sought help from churches and other relief organizations.

According to Adrienne Shaunfield of Feed Fayetteville, former stereotypes no longer can be applied to those who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Today’s SNAP participants are fresh out of college or former members of the middle class,” she says. “A lot of people care about eating healthy and eating right. They don’t want a handout; they want to be active in their food security.”

Feed Fayetteville and Tri Cycle Farm are both addressing the problem of food insecurity by pooling community resources, including SNAP benefits, to build community farms that will sustain, at the very least, those who farm the land.

Hunger, caused by high food prices and a weakened economy, is a global concern.

According to the New York Times, “researchers are projecting that by 2013, food prices will soar to unparalleled heights, causing widespread hunger in the most vulnerable populations and social unrest, with an enormous potential for loss of human life.”

Experts are pointing to market speculation as the key factor in inflating prices. And these prices are not just affecting the American public, but also the global community.

However, American banks have large investments in the food market.

Goldman Sachs plowed the way for other investment banks in 2000, after the Bush Administration passed the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, suggests that these banks never had an interest in purchasing food, but instead saw an opportunity to profit from the changes in food prices.

When these short-term/high-gain investors entered the market, the scales tipped. The market went from representing an actual transaction of food to a speculative investment of a promise to buy or sell ownership.

The past 12 years has seen a turbulent shifting of prices, peaking and bursting in speculation — and, in reality, leaving many people of the world hungry because of prices that are simply too high to afford.

Today it is estimated that 115 million more people have entered into hunger and poverty since 2008, bringing the total number of hungry people in the world today to 925 million.

What could we accomplish, I wonder, if we all made it our mission to make sure our neighbors had food on their tables?

This is the type of speculation that can burst the bubbles of greedy financiers.

This is the type of speculation that inspires people to plant seeds, to see if they can grow something, to hope they can sustain.

 

The Real Hunger Games

2013 Spike in Food Prices

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