Rampant Speculation Inflated Food Price Bubble – Wall St./Grain Traders Pushing Price Rises

“Hunger is not a food production problem. It is an income problem”

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 28, 2011 (IPS)

Billions of dollars are being made by investors in a speculative “food bubble” that’s created record food prices, starving millions and destabilising countries, experts now conclude.

[This is the second of a multi-part series investigating what is driving food prices higher]

Wall Street investment firms and banks, along with their kin in London and Europe, were responsible for the technology dot-com bubble, the stock market bubble, and the recent U.S. and UK housing bubbles. They extracted enormous profits and their bonuses before the inevitable collapse of each.

Now they’ve turned to basic commodities. The result? At a time when there has been no significant change in the global food supply or in food demand, the average cost of buying food shot up 32 percent from June to December 2010, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

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Nothing but price speculation can explain wheat prices jumping 70 percent from June to December last year when global wheat stocks were stable, experts say.

“There is no food shortage in the world. Food is simply priced out of the reach of the world’s poorest people,” said Robert Fox of Oxfam Canada in reference to the estimated one billion people who go hungry.

“Hunger is not a food production problem. It is an income problem,” Fox told IPS. Continue reading

In Corrupt Global Food System, Farmland Is the New Gold and Africans the New Share-croppers

$ Billions Made Speculating on Food

“Africans have become share-croppers, exporting coffee, cotton, flowers and now food while going hungry”

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 13, 2011 (IPS)

Famine-hollowed farmers watch trucks loaded with grain grown on their ancestral lands heading for the nearest port, destined to fill richer bellies in foreign lands. This scene has become all too common since the 2008 food crisis.

[This is the first of a multi-part series investigating what is driving food prices higher]

Food prices are even higher now in many countries, sparking another cycle of hunger riots in the Middle East and South Asia last weekend. While bad weather gets the blame for rising prices, the instant price hikes of recent times are largely due to market speculation in a corrupt global food system.

The 2008 food crisis awoke much of the world’s investment community to the profitable reality that hungry people will do almost anything, even sell their own children, in order to eat. And with the global financial crisis, food and farmland became the “new gold” for some of the biggest investors, experts agree.

In 2010, wheat futures rose 47 percent, U.S. corn was up more than 50 percent, and soybeans rose 34 percent.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

On Wednesday, U.S.-based Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural commodities trader, announced a tripling of profits. The firm generated 1.49 billion dollars in three months between September and November 2010.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Bills pay a return of less than one percent. Continue reading

Super Cyclone Yasi leaves cassowary in greater peril

The 6ft bird was at risk before the storm hit Australia. Now its survival is even more doubtful

[As Yasi hit the Queensland coast Feb 2 I wondered about how it might affect the endangered cassowary having been confronted by one of these amazing and sometimes aggressive birds in the jungle near Mission Beach a few years ago. Sorry to say it doesn’t look good for a truly incredible species. — Stephen]

By Roger Maynard

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The cassowary, one of the world’s largest birds, beaten for size and weight only by the ostrich and emu, is in a fight for its life. The flightless bird has talons that can tear open a human with one swipe, but it is normally a placid and shy fruit-eater. Now it is in peril as food supplies run low in the wake of Cyclone Yasi, which flattened vast swathes of rainforest in northern Queensland earlier this month.

Emergency food drops have already been made in the Mission Beach area, south of Cairns. The Queensland government has set up more than 50 feeding stations to supplement the birds’ diet.

Graham Lauridon, a local vet, said the main threat is to younger cassowaries, unable to fend for themselves, who have to compete for food with adult birds. “There’s a strong likelihood we will lose quite a few in the next six months,” he said.

via Cyclone puts cassowary in greater peril – Nature, Environment – The Independent.

Coral Reefs In Dire Peril – 75% May Die In Coming Years

One of the most incredible natural wonders of our world is being decimated by our actions: burning fossil fuel, pollution of land and sea, overfishing. The most recent estimate shows 75% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened according to new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and 24 other organizations. The report is “Reefs at Risk Revisited“.

Here’s one thing you can do to help. Follow and encourage others to live by these Three Simple Rules:

1. Reduce.

Reduce fossil fuel consumption everywhere.

2. Eliminate.

Eliminate all non-essential activities and products that involve burning fossil fuel.

3. Demand.

Demand that business and government provide transport, activities and products that minimize fossil fuel use.

Reduce. Eliminate. Demand. R.E.D.

More on the Corals, Ocean Acidification, Bleaching, Overfishing.

I have written more than 15 articles in last few years about the serious threats corals face:

Record Heat Killing Caribbean and Indian Ocean Corals

What if our air was 30% more acidic like the Oceans? May be 120% more acidic by 2060

Coral Reefs and Acid Oceans Series

Reefs and Forests Burn as Climate Disruption Takes Hold NOW

Permafrost Melt Soon Irreversible Without Major Fossil Fuel Cuts

Thawing Permafrost Will Accelerate Climate Disruption

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 17, 2011 (IPS)

Thawing permafrost is threatening to overwhelm attempts to keep the planet from getting too hot for human survival.

Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, as much as two-thirds of the world’s gigantic storehouse of frozen carbon could be released, a new study reported. That would push global temperatures several degrees higher, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable.

Once the Arctic gets warm enough, the carbon and methane emissions from thawing permafrost will kick-start a feedback that will amplify the current warming rate, says Kevin Schaefer, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. That will likely be irreversible.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

And we’re less than 20 years from this tipping point. Schaefer prefers to use the term “starting point” for when the 13 million square kilometres of permafrost in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe becomes a major new source of carbon emissions.

“Our model projects a starting point 15 to 20 years from now,” Schaefer told IPS. Continue reading

Factory Farms Spawn Climate Disruption and Disease

60 percent of factory farms in poor countries

[This is a re-post from 2007. Meat production in factory farms are major animal health and welfare issues, they also produce more emissions than cars and trucks. Not to mention creating perfect conditions for diseases like bird flu and swine flu and who knows what else. — Stephen]

Cramming 100,000 chickens into a single facility to produce low-cost meat also creates the perfect atmosphere for the spread of disease

By Stephen Leahy

Feb 20 (IPS) 2007

Factory farms are responsible for both the bird flu and emissions of greenhouse gases top those of cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs), according to a report released Monday.

Sixty percent of global livestock production, including chicken and pig “confined animal feedlot operations” (CAFOs), now occur in the developing world. Unregulated zoning and subsidies that encourage these CAFOs or factory farms are moving closer to major urban areas in China, Bangladesh, India, and many countries in Africa, said the report, “Vital Signs 2007-2008” by the Worldwatch Institute.

Although there is no definitive scientific proof, those farms are very likely where avian or bird flu started and will continue to be responsible for new outbreaks, said the author of the report, Danielle Nierenberg, a Worldwatch research associate. Continue reading

Why Our Weather is Weird ‘n Wild and Why It Is Getting Worse

Burning Fossil Fuels Bringing Heavy Rains and Flooding

(Bonus: How we can kick the fossil fuel addiction)

 

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 16, 2011 (IPS)

Human-induced heating of the planet has already made rainfall more intense, leading to more severe floods, researchers announced Wednesday.

Two new studies document significant impacts with just a fraction of the heating yet to come from the burning of fossil fuels. Fortunately, another new report shows the world can end its addiction to climate-wrecking fossil-fuel energy by 2050.

“Warmer air contains more moisture and leads to more extreme precipitation,” said Francis Zwiers of the University of Victoria.

Extreme precipitation and flooding over the entire northern hemisphere increased by seven percent between 1951 and 1999 as a result of anthropogenic global warming. That represents a “substantial change”, Zwiers told IPS, and more than twice the increase projected by climate modeling.

Zwiers and Xuebin Zhang of Environment Canada used observations from over 6,000 weather stations to measure the impact of climate warming on the intensity of extreme precipitation for the first time. The study was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

The planet is currently 0.8 degrees C hotter from the burning of fossil fuels. However, global temperatures had not yet started to increase in 1951, the first year of rainfall data Zwiers and Xuebin examined. By 1999, global temperatures had climbed by about 0.6 degrees C. The average temperature increase over that 50-year period is relatively small compared to the present but major impacts have been documented in terms of storm and flood damage even with this small increase in temperatures.

This suggests that the Earth’s climatic system may be more sensitive to small temperature increases than previously believed.

Continue reading