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Grassroots International, 200 Civil Society Groups Urge Obama & Congress to Curb Food Speculation to Fight Global Hunger Crisis

March 2009

Today, a coalition of faith, hunger, international development, farm and food organizations – including Grassroots International – sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting decisive support for efforts to wring out excess speculation in agricultural futures markets that threatens the food security of hundreds of millions of people. The letter notes that “A significant part of last year’s food price fluctuations were the result of excessive speculation in the commodities markets by the very hedge funds and investment banks that helped create the current economic meltdown.”

“Investors need to realize that their apparently innocent investments in food and energy commodity futures have driven up world food prices. This has forced hundreds of millions of people already living on the edge into desperate situations. Children are going hungry, even dying.” said David Kane of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. “It is absolutely unacceptable that investors are enriching themselves off of the suffering of so many. President Obama and the Congress must act quickly in order to avoid another food crisis this year.”

The letter was signed by 183 social justice and civil society groups including 107 international groups from 29 countries and 76 groups based in the United States. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 200 million additional people in the developing world faced malnutrition because of surging food prices in 2008. The signatories urge the president and congress to re-regulate the commodity futures market to prevent speculation from continuing to contribute to global hunger and food insecurity.

The letter states that the 2008 food price volatility “could have been stopped with sensible rules that, if enforced, would have staved off the malnutrition and starvation that was caused by excessive gambling of food prices. Important reforms are needed now to prevent mega-investors from viewing the futures market like a casino where they can gamble on hunger.”

There are several proposals in Congress that start to take important first steps to prevent excess speculation from driving up the price of food for people worldwide. These measures need to be strengthened to ensure that the entire range of commodity futures speculation is covered and that giant investment funds do not exert undo speculative pressures on food prices.

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