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The European Parliament voted last night (15 April 2014) to restrict speculation by banks and hedge funds, to prevent them driving up food prices and fuelling global hunger.

In a vote hailed as a positive step by anti-poverty campaigners, the parliament gave the go-ahead to new regulation aimed at curbing speculation on food prices. Speculation on the global commodity markets has played a major role in causing a series of price spikes over the past six years that have left millions of people unable to afford enough food.

The World Development Movement has welcomed vote, which gives the parliament’s seal of approval to the new regulation agreed by negotiators in January. The campaign group has urged the European Union to ensure the regulation is implemented effectively. It says the UK government’s opposition to strong controls has resulted in loopholes, and it has warned the EU against allowing pressure from the finance industry to further weaken the regulation. Continue reading “EU votes to curb food speculation” »

Fewer crop species are feeding the world than 50 years ago, raising concerns about the resilience of the global food system, according to a report from BBC News on 4 March 2014.

The authors of a recent academic study warn that a loss of diversity means more people are dependent on key crops, leaving them more exposed to harvest failures.

Higher consumption of energy-dense crops with high calorific values can also contribute to a global rise in heart disease and diabetes, they add.

The study appears in the US-based journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) under the title ‘Increasing homogeneity in global food supplies and the implications for food security‘. Continue reading “Can the global food system deliver?” »

Food sovereignty is increasingly being seen as a more significant goal than food security among environmentalists and food activists. But what precisely is the difference?

A post by Noah Zerbe, from 30 November 2102, on his Global Food Politics blog, presents a concise and useful analysis. We hope he doesn’t object to our reproducing it in full. Continue reading “Food security vs. food sovereignty” »

WORLD DEVELOPMENT MOVEMENT. London. 15 January 2014. EU negotiators last night agreed to introduce regulation to prevent speculation by banks and hedge funds driving up food prices and exacerbating the global hunger crisis. The new controls will place a limit on the number of food contracts that banks and other finance companies can hold, and will force traders to open their activity to greater public scrutiny.

Anti-poverty campaign group the World Development Movement has hailed the decision as an historic step forward, but said that the UK government’s opposition to tough controls has resulted in serious loopholes in the regulation. In particular, limits will be set at national rather than EU level, which campaigners say risks a regulatory ‘race to the bottom’ as countries could compete to set weaker limits. Continue reading “EU to act on food price speculation” »

WORLD DEVELOPMENT MOVEMENT. London. 13 January 2014. Campaigners have warned that UK negotiators are attempting to scupper agreement on rules to curb food speculation at talks in Brussels tomorrow (Tuesday 14 January), allowing banks to continue betting on food prices and exacerbating global hunger.

Research by the World Development Movement has revealed that UK Treasury ministers have urged finance companies to lobby against the controls. Ministers have held a series of meetings with the finance sector from the start of discussions on the legislation in 2010, encouraging the City to work with the Treasury in opposing the reforms. Continue reading “UK tries to scupper EU food speculation controls” »

NEW YORK TIMES. New York. 1 November 2013. Climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades, potentially undermining crop production and driving up prices at a time when the demand for food is expected to soar, scientists have found.

In a departure from an earlier assessment, the scientists concluded that rising temperatures will have some beneficial effects on crops in some places, but that globally they will make it harder for crops to thrive — perhaps reducing production over all by as much as 2 percent each decade for the rest of this century, compared with what it would be without climate change.

And, the scientists say, they are already seeing the harmful effects in some regions. Continue reading “Climate change experts predict rising food prices” »

Nick DeardenWORLD DEVELOPMENT MOVEMENT. London. 1 November 2013. According to the UK-based campaign group, the World Development Movement, a leaked document has revealed attempts by the UK government to scupper proposed controls on food speculation ahead of negotiations in Brussels next Wednesday. Continue reading “Leak shows UK intends to wreck EU moves against food speculation” »

FINANCIAL TIMES. London, 12 July 2013. Wheat prices rallied as the latest US monthly report on supply and demand forecast Chinese imports of the commodities rising to the highest since the 1990s.

CBOT wheat rose 2.4 per cent to $6.88 a bushel as the US Department of Agriculture said China’s imports for the 2013-14 crop year were expected to total 8.5m tonnes, the highest since 1995-96.

The news comes as rainstorms in China have sent traders there on a global wheat-buying spree. Exporters have booked unusually large wheat purchases by Chinese buyers over the past few weeks. Continue reading “Chinese demand boosts wheat prices” »

A joint press release issued by Concord Denmark, Corporate Europe Observatory, Foodwatch, Friends of the Earth Europe, Oxfam, Somo, and the World Development Movement claims that loopholes in the EU’s new Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) will allow continuing speculation in food prices while addressing other forms of financial speculation. The full text of the release follows.

Brussels, June 21, 2013 – Little will be done to curb harmful food speculation today as EU finance ministers meet to approve their position on the new Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) – which sets new regulations for financial markets. According to a broad coalition of environmental and development organisations, loopholes in the legislation will render it ineffective to prevent food speculation, and the resulting food price spikes that hit the poorest the hardest. Continue reading “EU Ministers leave the door open for harmful food speculation” »

The UK National Farmers’ Union has warned that extreme weather may mean Britain’s wheat harvest will be 30 per cent smaller this year than it was in 2012. A poll of 76 NFU members has discovered that a substantially smaller area was planted last autumn because of unusually wet soil conditions and that yields would decline for the second consecutive year. Many farmers have uprooted their failed wheat planting and replaced it with later or sturdier crops such as spring barley.

The NFU does not believe the reduction will impact the quality of our wheat crop while the National Association of British and Irish Millers said that a lower yield would not cause a rise in prices, which are largely determined by bigger global producers. However, these optimistic views do not take account of any adverse weather conditions among major wheat producers in Canada, the US, Russia and the Ukraine.

NFU combinable crops chairman, Andrew Watts, said that wet weather between September and December has resulted in less wheat being planted, while subsequent bad weather, including flooding and snowfalls, has caused many crops to fail. Continue reading “What’s our land for?” »

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