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The Empire Strikes Back

On December 2, 2011, two of Wall Street’s top lobby groups launched an assault on a newly reinstated “position limits” regulation, which aims to curb speculation in commodity futures markets–and a key factor behind rising food prices–in the first ever case brought against the Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC).

The two lobby groups, the Security Industry and Financial Markets Association and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association have challenged the extremely controversial position limits rule, which the CFTC passed in a narrow 3-2 vote this October. Wall Street has recruited the lawfirm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, whose lawyers Miguel Estrada (among Bush’s counsel in Bush v. Gore) and Eugene Scalia (who overturned a Securities and Exchange Commission rule earlier this year) are determined to hold the scepter of market regulation at bay.

The rule caps the total future interest of a given commodity (such as wheat, corn, soy, etc.) a market participant can hold, aimed at preventing “excessive speculation” in those markets. Position limit supporters argue that their absence in recent years has led to price volatility and price spikes, such as the 2008 food crisis that plunged millions of the world’s most vulnerable people deeper into abject poverty, and rising oil prices which in turn drive up the price of food. Read more

Food Fight: Climate Change and the Coming International Food Crisis

Every year, in a tradition dating to the 1940s, thousands gather in the Spanish town of Buñol for La Tomatina, a giant “food fight,” in which participants gleefully pelt each other with tomatoes and get very, very messy. There’s blood in the streets, but it belongs to the tomatoes. However, according to a study in the prestigious journal, Science, and two in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), we are about to experience food fights of a very different, more deadly type. Read more

Riots or Rebellions? Eric Holt-Giménez Looks at the World Food Crisis

Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy recently partnered with Raj Patel and Annie Shattuck to bring us Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice. Recently, Holt-Giménez spent a weekend in New York to introduce his new book and open a conversation about these rebellions.

Perhaps you’ve heard the stats: between 2007 and 2008 approximately 40 food riots occurred around the world. In Mexico, corn prices made tortilla, a staple of the country’s diet, prohibitively expensive for the nation’s poor. In Haiti, soaring food prices led people to the streets, and eventually to overthrow the Prime Minister. Read more