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

Organic farms have better fungi and that’s a very good thing

Organic cultivation of mixed vegetables in Cap...
Image via Wikipedia

New study from Britain’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology concludes: Organic agriculture better for fungi that are a key to healthy ecosystems. [press release below]

This is just one of dozens of different studies that demonstrate the benefits of organic over conventional as I’ve previously posted. Despite the benefits to society organic farmers receive little government support or are marginalized in most countries. Wonder why? — Stephen

Organic farming more profitable and better than conventional systems – U of Wisconsin

Organic Agriculture Reduces Climate Change, Poverty and Hunger

Organic Provides 3X More Food Per Acre in Poor Countries – podcast

Overweight? Hungry? Blame “Hollow Food”


Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Farming practices have a significant impact on the diversity of beneficial microbial fungi known to play important roles in crop productivity, soil recovery and maintenance of healthy ecosystems, according to new research published today (14 September 2010) in the journal Environmental Microbiology. The conclusions could have important implications for the way humans manage the agricultural landscape and tackle food security issues. Continue reading

Free Markets Cause Chronic Hunger in Africa — There’s Plenty of Food but No Money

Written a few years ago but still relevant today. Ideology causes hunger not lack of food.

Free Markets Cause Chronic Hunger in Africa -- There's Plenty of Food but No Money By Stephen Leahy

BROOKLIN, Canada, Oct 20, 2006 (IPS)

[World Bank and International Monetary Fund free-market doctrines responsible for much of Africa’s hunger experts say]

It is a world of paradox and plenty: 852 million people are starving while one billion people are overweight, with 300 million of them considered medically obese. And the numbers of people whose health are at serious risk due to starvation or from obesity is rising rapidly. Wh … Read More

Small Farmers Can Feed AND Cool the World – Industrial Agriculture Emits Almost 50% of Greenhouse Emissions

Agriculture and Food System Change needed to combat Climate Change

Women need to part of the solution

[UPDATE: Feb 2010. Small farmers can cool and feed the world according to Via Campesina. They may be right. After all industrial food production is about making profits not feeding the world nor is it concerned about carbon emissions. Shockingly the GRAIN study in this article did NOT include methane emissions from livestock, so the impact of big ag on climate is likely greater still.

Industrial agriculture is widely acknowledged to be unsustainable — check out this three-year international scientific assessment I covered in 2008 that will revolutionize farming as we know it. The food system is broken but the only reforms I hear about from governments, agribusiness and big NGOs are the same old solutions: new seeds and hi-tech equipment, more GMOs and maybe throw in some nanotech. Small farmers can already deliver what we need if we let them. — Stephen.]

By Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN, Dec 12’09 (IPS/TerraViva)

Industrial agriculture may emit nearly half of climate-heating greenhouse gases, but that reality has gone unrecognised by negotiators at the climate treaty talks here, say farmers with La Via Campesina, an international movement of hundreds of millions of small-scale peasant farmers.

“Small-scale farmers use 80 percent less energy than large monocultures,” said Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian farmer with Mouvement de Paysan, through a translator.

“Peasant farmers from La Via Campesina and others can help cool the planet,” Jean-Baptiste told a press conference at the Klimaforum09, the alternative climate action talks being held here in Copenhagen Dec. 7-18.

Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian farmer with Mouvement de Paysan

Unlike the official talks, set in a remote location surrounded by police and razor wire, Klimaforum09 is being held in the city’s community centre and is free and open to the public.

System Change for Climate Change” – that’s the phrase most often heard at the Klimaforum09 and in parts of Copenhagen.

La Via Campesina’s claim that industrial agriculture is by far the biggest source of carbon emissions is based on a recent study that looked at all emissions from the global food system.

This includes oil-dependent industrial farming, together with the expansion of the meat industry, the destruction of world’s savannahs and forests to grow agricultural commodities, the use of fossil fuel energy to transport and process food, and the extensive use of chemical fertilisers.

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

The study was conducted by GRAIN, an international non-governmental organisation that promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity to support local communities. Continue reading

Global Warming Puts Food Supplies At Risk, New Green Revolution Needed

cattle-oz-rslBy Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Apr 2 (IPS) – Don’t forget about agriculture in the upcoming global negotiations to combat climate change, experts warn. Not only is farming most at risk in an increasingly variable and tempestuous climate, it is also a major emitter of greenhouse gases.

But with the right policies in place, agriculture could both continue to feed the world and play a crucial role in solving the climate problem.

“Agriculture has been missing in the run-up talks to Copenhagen,” says Mark Rosegrant of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The nations of the world will meet in Copenhagen this December to hammer out a new climate treaty to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and establish a fund to help poorer countries adapt. The complex process began in 2007 at the Bali talks, continued in Poznan, Poland in 2008 and is ongoing this week in Bonn.

Agriculture accounts for about 15 percent of human emissions of GHGs, IFPRI says, although the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change puts it higher at 25 percent. Much of those emissions come from developed countries that rely heavily on fossil fuels and fertilisers and raise far more methane-emitting livestock.

With climate change the world is facing reduced yields of up to 20 percent in maize and rice by the year 2050, Rosegrant told IPS. Much of that yield decline will be in the developing world, mainly because sub-tropical and tropical regions are expected to be hit hardest by significant changes in water availability and warmer temperatures.

Climate change could mean ever-rising food prices and therefore significant investments are needed in agricultural research to help countries cope with the coming changes, he says: “We’re trying to work out what the costs for adaptation in agriculture might be.” Continue reading

Organic farming more profitable and better than conventional systems – U of Wisconsin

stanford-food-security-banner-sml

A University of Wisconsin’s College of Agriculture and Life Science study has found that “diversified (organic) systems were more profitable than monocropping”. Looked at the Midwestern crop standards of continuous corn, no-till corn and soybeans, and intensively managed alfalfa.

Study concludes: governmental policy that supports mono-culture systems is outdated and support should be shifted to programs that promote crop rotations and organic farming practices.

This is just one a many recent studies offering clear evidence that diversified/organic/ecoag farming systems are safer, better and more environmentally sustainable than conventional monocultures:

Organic Agriculture Reduces Climate Change, Poverty and Hunger

Organic Provides 3X More Food Per Acre in Poor Countries – podcast

Overweight? Hungry? Blame “Hollow Food”

Organic Cure for Brain-damaging Pesticides Found in US Children

Male Infertility Linked to Pesticides

GM Crops Creating Pest Problems Around World

Food Crisis is “Manufactured” – UK Expert

By Stephen Leahy

Rising fuel and transportation costs could force governments to return to local production of food, scientist Michel Pimbert says in a Tierramérica interview.

LONDON, May 19 (Tierramérica).- The current food crisis has revived the myth that the world doesn’t produce enough food for its six billion people, according to Michel Pimbert, author of a new study that highlights local production as a potential solution.

It is a “manufactured crisis” that is the outcome of a market-driven, global food system, says Pimbert, director of the agriculture and biodiversity program at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

That system needs to evolve towards localized food production that allows people to improve nutrition, income and economies, starting at the household level and through the regional level, he says. Continue reading