Friday, 2 November 2012

Food Speculation

In September, The Independent reported,

"Barclays has made as much as half a billion pounds in two years from speculating on food staples such as wheat and soya, prompting allegations that banks are profiting handsomely from the global food crisis. Barclays is the UK bank with the greatest involvement in food commodity trading and is one of the three biggest global players, along with the US banking giants Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, research from the World Development Movement points out. [....] Since deregulation allowed the creation of such funds in 2000, institutions such as Barclays have collectively channelled an astonishing $200bn (£126bn) of investment cash into agricultural commodities, according to the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission." (1/9/2012)

The draft legislation approved today (2/11/2012) introduces mandatory limits on harmful speculation which is fuelling price volatility on global agricultural commodity markets. European Member States must now move swiftly to confirm and toughen up the proposed rules.

European Union Member States will now be asked to incorporate strong rules to limit speculation on food commodities into the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID)

“Members of the European Parliament across the board have sent a clear signal to the Council that mandatory limits on speculation are a ‘must’. [...] Cracks in the text adopted today still need to be filled during talks with Member States to make sure it effectively staves off excessive speculation. This is crucial for the millions in poor countries who are hit by high and unpredictable food prices, and for families in the EU who feel the impacts of rising food bills.” (Marc Olivier Herman, EU Policy Adviser)

Markus Ferber (EPP) stressed “the need to reduce spot markets so as not to create perverse rules whereby people in the third world cannot buy food” and stressed “the need to erode speculation (…) through strict limits and strict ceilings for positions.”  

Thomas Mann (EPP) said: “It is important to have commodity position limits, helping to stave off excessive speculation. 

Robert GOEBBELS (S&D) said “We need to build proper barriers against commodity and food speculation”.  

Arlene McCarthy (S&D) used the words “immoral and unjust” to qualify excessive food speculation.   

Sharon Bowles (ALDE), in relation to food commodities, said that she supported mandatory position limits because “it’s better to be safe”.  

Sven Giegold (Greens) underlined the importance of MiFID in relation to the transparency and regulation of commodity trading.

J├╝rgen Klute (GUE/NGL) declared the text was “a good step towards protecting against food price speculation”.

The Research neeeds to be read. Further information on the harmful effects of food speculation.

We need to take action:

 Sign the Petition.

The Oxfam Campaign.

Oxfam's private sector adviser, Rob Nash, said: "The food market is becoming a playground for investors rather than a market place for farmers. The trend of big investors betting on food prices is transforming food into a financial asset while exacerbating the risk of price spikes that hit the poor hardest." (1/9/2012)

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Swift's Ironic Cannibalism


In his Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick (1729) Jonathan Swift satirically proposed a solution to poverty and the population problem. Infant cannibalism.

There is a grotesque logic to his monstrous calculations:

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.

I do therefore humbly offer it to publick consideration, that of the hundred and twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine, and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore, one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in sale to the persons of quality and fortune, through the kingdom, always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have reckoned upon a medium, that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, encreaseth to 28 pounds.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

Infant's flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French physician, that fish being a prolifick dyet, there are more children born in Roman Catholick countries about nine months after Lent, the markets will be more glutted than usual, because the number of Popish infants, is at least three to one in this kingdom, and therefore it will have one other collateral advantage, by lessening the number of Papists among us.

I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child (in which list I reckon all cottagers, labourers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be about two shillings per annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat, when he hath only some particular friend, or his own family to dine with him. Thus the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among his tenants, the mother will have eight shillings neat profit, and be fit for work till she produces another child.

Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flea the carcass; the skin of which, artificially dressed, will make admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen.

As to our City of Dublin, shambles may be appointed for this purpose, in the most convenient parts of it, and butchers we may be assured will not be wanting; although I rather recommend buying the children alive, and dressing them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs.