The scandal of food speculation
Growing up in London, the harvest festival meant delivering dented cans of baked beans to local pensioners. Moving to Oxfordshire to take a job at the New Internationalist brought me the closest I’d ever been to the seasonal cycle of reaping and sowing grains.
In May I biked to work past fields of stiff green wheat, cut through with red streaks of poppies. Over the summer months, the wheat grew a hat of soft green fuzz that shimmied in the wind, before finally turning golden. Then the combine harvesters moved into action, whirring through the night and depositing neat rectangular straw bales at regular intervals.
All the while I was learning how food had been teleported far away from its earthly origins. This month’s main analysis section looks at how banks have alighted on food commodities, turning them into an asset that can be invested in – like a stock or share. The resulting speculation has disrupted our fragile food system, which fails to feed people at the best of times.
But campaigners are pushing for a clampdown on financial speculators. With the European Commission pushing for a Tobin tax on financial transactions and a Tahrir-style occupation of Wall Street under way, the political winds – for once – are blowing in their favour.
Elsewhere in the magazine, we examine Russia today, 20 years this month since the break-up the Soviet Union.
For the Argument, a humanist and a Catholic debate whether religious schools are good or bad for society. And leading children’s writer Michael Morpugo talks about how the story of the Pied Piper sheds light on the London riots.
HAZEL HEALY for the New Internationalist Co-operative www.newint.org
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COMING NEXT MONTH
It’s 50 years since US President Dwight D Eisenhower, in his farewell address to the nation, warned of the conjunction of the military and the arms manufacturers, and the undue pressure they could exert on lawmakers and state policy. Today we have moved from the Cold War to Continual War, all at great public expense. Time to bring the arms industry into the line of fire. ● An insider’s look at how arms merchants fuel political corruption. ● When killing is like a computer game – the rise of unpiloted drones. ALSO: Everyone’s mother: the inspirational life story of a Brazilian trash-picker.
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