Protests Spotlight Need for Corporate Food System Accountability

Photo of the Occupy Wall Street protest, courtesy of Flickr user listentomyvoice.As the Occupy Wall Street movement enters its fourth week, it appears that the mainstream media has devoted more time to covering the protestors' food of choice (the "OccuPie" pizza) than to evaluating its food integrity agenda. This misplaced focus is unfortunate, given that the movement has an important message regarding the impact that corporations have on the world food supply.

According to the first official release from Occupy Wall Street, detailing the misdeeds of corporations:

  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

The declaration urges readers to "make your voices heard" on these issues. To ensure voices are heard, FIC continually fights for corporate and government employees to safely speak out and tell the truth about the dangerous working conditions, waste, fraud, and abuse that permeate through America's industrial agriculture system.

This past Monday, hundreds of economists and scholars raised their voices and requested that the Group of 20 (G-20) – a group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union that discusses key issues in the global economy – take urgent action to stop excessive speculation on food commodity markets. According to the letter, "excessive financial speculation is contributing to increasing volatility and record food prices, exacerbating global hunger and poverty."

According to the World Development Movement, which spearheaded the letter:

"Banks, hedge funds and pension funds are betting on food prices in the financial markets, causing drastic price swings in staple foods such as wheat, maize and soy ... In the last six months of 2010 alone, more than 44 million people were driven into extreme poverty as a result of rising food prices. At the same time, banks and financial investors are making a killing. We estimate that Barclays makes up to £340 million a year from betting, or speculating, on food prices. In the last five years, the amount of financial speculation on food has nearly doubled, from $65 billion to $126 billion."

Although the U.S. Dodd-Frank Act requires that some reforms be made related to commodities trades, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has yet to issue rules on certain provisions. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs spent 1.08 million last quarter alone to lobby Congress and various agencies of the U.S. government, including the CFTC.

According to Rohit Malpani from Oxfam America, "there is a choice that the CFTC and the EU have to make. Listen to experts or those impacted by high food prices, or listen to those who are benefiting from volatility, largely the banks and funds that have increasingly moved to these markets." Unfortunately, a recent report from Reuters finds that the CFTC appears to be "yielding to banks and other major traders on several key provisions."

Perhaps regulation of food commodity market speculation will become a larger part of Occupy Wall Street's agenda. As Ben Lilliston from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy summarized in his excellent article about what the occupation has to do with agriculture: "Wall Street deregulation has not only made the stock market extremely volatile, it has increased prices and price volatility in agricultural markets. The cost of protecting against price volatility are considerable for the future of agriculture not only in the U.S., but around the world."

 

Shelley Walden is International Officer for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.

 

Comments (3)

  1. WE AS CONSUMERS MUST EDUCATE ALL UNKNOWING CONSUMERS ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON WITH OUR FOOD SYSTEM. IF WE COULD JUST GET ENOUGH PEOPLE TO QUIT BUYING THE GARBAGE MONSANTO WOULD BE OUT OF BUSINESS!! MOST PEOPLE DO NOT CARE UNTIL THEY ARE SICK AND DYING. THERE HAS GOT TO BE A WAY TO GET THEM TO LISTEN!! ONE THING I USE IS "I DONT CARE IF YOU DONT CARE ABOUT YOURSELF BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN OR GRANDCHILDREN? HOW WOULD YOU FEEL WHEN THEY COME TO YOU AND SAY WHY DIDNT YOU STOP THIS? NOW IM SICK!" I WISH FOR ALL OF US FOODIES ENDURANCE, PATIENCE, WISDOM TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!!
  2. My husband and I just returned from the Right2Know march and rally in Washington, DC, to assert our right to know what's in our food through the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and ingredients. We encourage people who care about make their own decisions about what they eat to sign the online petition at JustLabelIt.org.

    The United States and Canada stand alone against all the industrial and many developing nations in having NO labeling of foods and food ingredients containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Many other countries have outright BANS on GMOs because they have NOT been proven safe, and, in fact, there is growing evidence that they are UNSAFE for all living creatures. These experimental bio-technologies are pushed by the food industry on uninformed consumers who have been misled by Madison Avenue marketers, and this must not be allowed to continue. Labeling is not enough, but it is a start.

    JUSTLABELIT.ORG
  3. Farmers and eaters unite!

    Thousands have gathered in Occupy demonstrations across the country to protest the greed of banks, the power of corporations, widespread unemployment, the widest income gap in US history.

    No one knows the struggle better than family farmers. Since the 1980s more than a million farm families have been forced off the land, leading to factory farms and industrial, chemical intensive agribusiness that is more consolidated than ever.

    Food is too important to be put into the hands of a few corporations!

    Let's claim our farms and food for the health of our bodies, our soil, our water and our economy.

    Post your stories here!

    http://facebook.com/OccupyTheFoodSystem

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