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Wired: Link to Price Spikes Prompts Banks to Consider Quitting Food Speculation

Financial giant Barclays is considering an end to food speculation, a controversial practice linked to sudden, dangerous spikes in global food prices.

Rich Ricci, head of Barclays’ corporate and investment banking arm, told British lawmakers on Nov. 28 that public disapproval of food speculation may push his bank, the world’s third-largest, to stop altogether.

“Market speculation is playing a role in global hunger. Now that science has made this clear, speculation should be unacceptable,” said Yaneer Bar-Yam, president of the New England Complex Systems Institute.

Speculation — investors betting on food prices — has existed for decades, but until the late 1990s was restricted to farmers and food producers, who have direct market interests and used bets to offset their risks.

Deregulation allowed anyone to bet, and after the financial crisis began in 2007, panicked investors pulled trillions of dollars out of the stock market and put them into markets for commodities, including food.

Read the full story here.