Wednesday 1st of February 2023

when oil ain't oil .....

wnen oil ain't oil .....

Thanks to high oil prices and hefty subsidies, corn-based ethanol is now all the rage in the United States.  

But it takes so much supply to keep ethanol production going that the price of corn - and those of other food staples - is shooting up around the world. To stop this trend, and prevent even more people from going hungry, Washington must conserve more and diversify ethanol's production inputs. 

How Biofuels Could Starve The Poor

perfect storm of shortages...

UN warns of new face of hunger as global prices soar
Huge budget deficit means millions more face starvation
The United Nations warned yesterday that it no longer has enough money to keep global malnutrition at bay this year in the face of a dramatic upward surge in world commodity prices, which have created a "new face of hunger".

"We will have a problem in coming months," said Josette Sheeran, the head of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP). "We will have a significant gap if commodity prices remain this high, and we will need an extra half billion dollars just to meet existing assessed needs."

With voluntary contributions from the world's wealthy nations, the WFP feeds 73 million people in 78 countries, less than a 10th of the total number of the world's undernourished. Its agreed budget for 2008 was $2.9bn (£1.5bn). But with annual food price increases around the world of up to 40% and dramatic hikes in fuel costs, that budget is no longer enough even to maintain current food deliveries.

The shortfall is all the more worrying as it comes at a time when populations, many in urban areas, who had thought themselves secure in their food supply are now unable to afford basic foodstuffs. Afghanistan has recently added an extra 2.5 million people to the number it says are at risk of malnutrition...

...
WFP officials say the extraordinary increases in the global price of basic foods were caused by a "perfect storm" of factors: a rise in demand for animal feed from increasingly prosperous populations in India and China, the use of more land and agricultural produce for biofuels, and climate change. 

------------

See toon at top... 

The beginning of things to come...

India introduces rice export ban

The Indian government has banned the export of non-basmati rice to try and control soaring domestic food costs.

The decision, one of a series of measures to curb inflation, was taken during an emergency cabinet meeting.

The price for exports of aromatic basmati rice has also been raised to $1,200 per tonne to discourage exports.

The move could have an impact on rice prices globally as the country is the third largest exporter of the grain - a staple food in many countries.

The move is the latest in a series of increases in the export price of non-basmati rice.

The price of such rice was increased from $650 to $1,000 per tonne in the month of March alone.

Global problem

The government imposed a total ban on non-basmati rice exports last October but lifted it following protests from exporters.

food stamps...

We knew things were bad on Wall Street, but on Main Street it may be worse. Startling official statistics show that as a new economic recession stalks the United States, a record number of Americans will shortly be depending on food stamps just to feed themselves and their families.

Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s.

World Bank echoes food cost

World Bank echoes food cost alarm

The rapid rise in food prices could push 100m people in poor countries deeper into poverty, the head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, has said.

His warning follows that from the leader of the International Monetary Fund, who said hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of starvation.

Mr Zoellick proposed an action plan to boost long-run agricultural production.

There have been food riots recently in a number of countries, including Haiti, the Philippines and Egypt.

-----------------

Gus: as long as this plan is not used as an excuse to implement GM crops,  it's okay... GM crops would compound the problem sooner than some think... including the destruction of the natural environment at light speed...

thoughts about food

Food for thought

The authors projected that the global demand for food was set to double in the next 25-50 years, primarily in developing nations.

As a result, they said that it was necessary for the agricultural sector to grow, but in a way that did not result in social hardship or environmental degradation.

As well as looking at the global picture, the IAASTD also examined the situation in different regions:

    * Central/West Asia and North Africa: unique agricultural biodiversity is beginning to disappear. Likely to suffer the consequences of limited water supplies and climate change
    * East/South Asia and the Pacific: development in the region is increasing pollution levels. Climate change is likely to trigger large-scale migration
    * Latin America and the Caribbean: increased yield from agriculture has not led to a significant decrease in poverty. Food imports have created dependence and disruption to local production
    * Sub-Saharan Africa: agriculture accounts for about 32% of the region's GDP, yet 80% of arable land is experiencing water scarcity
    * North America and Europe: private sector funding has affected the direction of agricultural research and has increased the influence of transnational companies

The study found that access to food was taken for granted in many nations, and farmers and farm workers were poorly rewarded for acting as stewards of almost one-third of the Earth's land.

It recommended a fundamental rethink of agricultural knowledge, science and technology, in order to achieve a sustainable global food system.

The experts said that efforts should focus on the needs of small-scale farmers in diverse ecosystems, and areas with the greatest needs.

Measures would include giving farmers better access to knowledge, technology and credit. It would also require investment to bring the necessary information and infrastructure to rural areas.

---------------

Gus: ... and make sure than in the process we're not poisoning the earth with millions of tonnes of insecticides, super-phosphates, "aggressive" fertilisers and herbicides compounding the problem of vanishing ecosystems, on land and in the sea.

As well, as the author mentions, the increase in world population is putting more and more pressures on already improved systems that could cope with present level of population but won't cope in the near future.

Everyday, I thank the farmers for my daily bread... and the bakers... but when I've got the time I make my own rye bread from organically grown flour... Thank you people, the organic farmers who are doing a fantastic service to all, in very difficult circumstances and pressures.

the Aussie drought is no Chardonnay...

The Food Chain
A Drought in Australia, a Global Shortage of Rice

By KEITH BRADSHER
Published: April 17, 2008

DENILIQUIN, Australia — Lindsay Renwick, the mayor of this dusty southern Australian town, remembers the constant whir of the rice mill. “It was our little heartbeat out there, tickety-tick-tickety,” he said, imitating the giant fans that dried the rice, “and now it has stopped.”

The Deniliquin mill, the largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere, once processed enough grain to meet the needs of 20 million people around the world. But six long years of drought have taken a toll, reducing Australia’s rice crop by 98 percent and leading to the mothballing of the mill last December.

Ten thousand miles separate the mill’s hushed rows of oversized silos and sheds — beige, gray and now empty — from the riotous streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but a widening global crisis unites them.

The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months — increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

----------------

The modern Irish potato famine?... where's this big news in the Aussie papers?...

biofuel for thoughts

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis

Internal World Bank study delivers blow to plant energy drive

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body.

The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.

Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.

"It would put the World Bank in a political hot-spot with the White House," said one yesterday.

The news comes at a critical point in the world's negotiations on biofuels policy. Leaders of the G8 industrialised countries meet next week in Hokkaido, Japan, where they will discuss the food crisis and come under intense lobbying from campaigners calling for a moratorium on the use of plant-derived fuels.

---------

See toon at top.... 

food basket case

Renewing the culinary culture, and restoring the kinds of values that are necessary for the proper functioning of a healthy republic, is not the sort of thing that can be left to activists, environmentalists, and government bureaucrats. This is a conservative cause if ever there was one, and it is going to have to begin at home. The revolution is coming. And it’s sure to be delicious.

------------------------

Gus: sometimes I think that the magazine "The American Conservative" is the most Liberal of all. Usually we associate conservatives with money and a routine way of acquiring it be through slavery or commerce. But slavery has been abolished and commerce is often too slow for the new money men. They want money faster than ever and instead of being "conservatives" they end up being fast thugs using the term 'conservative" as a key to give them access to the big loot.

Of course there are better ways to make money than to employ kids, earning peanuts, serving fries cooked in raccoon oil or sell hamburgers for just a few bux — all in the xzillions, but this is not a bad start. In the long run it could rot teeth, help an obese tab at the local slimming franchise (your own) and keep the health department busy beyond its dream (your clinic).

Thus under the "conservative" banner to make money, some people invented the fast food industry that has killed the real stuff for many and sent some people to an early grave. Sure the Greens and the Liberals (US) have decried the process and the conservative in truly conservative mode will still serve conservative dinner on silver and in fine fine china. But the democratic flotsam and jetsam, left to fend for itself in a world of graball, feeds badly with bad habits generated from the money men — and usually are induced to eat TOO MUCH. Sure the money men will say they fill a need, but often the need is created by reduced time left to cook by being overworked or by entertainment overtaking cooking time and by advertising spruiking the value of not cooking yourself because what you'll find over-there is "deliciously finger licking magic" or we deliver in two seconds flat. And it's also so craving salty you'll eat twice as much as you need, washing it down with a sugar laced fizzy drink that will cook your kidneys eventually with the carbonates. Not only that, a whole meal can be bough frozen in packets at a supermarket near you. Press defrost and here you have a gourmet meal laced with a touch of preservatives, natural or not. Some may not have preservatives but they've got certain starches of other stuff to give it consistency you could not get otherwise from minus 19 Celsius pea and ham.

Tins have had pride of place, but "fresh" food, including the cooking thereof has been relegated in our subculture of spray paint in cans, to rare gourmet dinners or restaurant outings. For the youth, these latter episodic ventures are more remote than ever. With no-one teaching them the rudimentary skills to boil an egg (3.25 minutes), they just err from one fast food outlet to another. These joints also become the meeting points and the cultural space. Vaccum flasks have more in them.

I cook daily but then I'm old fashioned... and not strangely enough, healthy for an old grump. I may take an aspirin once every four years after a bad booze-up and that's all. No heart pills, no blood pressure pills et all. And I use a lot of butter and cream, counterbalanced with vino rosso, but then I also use lots of olive oil, peanut oil and bread made from flour, water and yeast only. Lots of fresh fish, fresh vegies and lettuce. Lettuce is often dismissed by the pill-poppers (including too many vitamin pills) who do not realise that rather than take a slimming tablet, eating lettuce would actually do a similar job faster, naturally...

Anyway good to this mag to promote "conservative" eating habits, even if the conservatives in their quest to make a quick buck invented fast food for the masses while eating lobster and caviar themselves.

coming to a throat near you .....

After experimenting with rats, goats, sheep and cows, it is now the turn of Indian people. In a few months from now, if the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of India has its way, the first genetically modified food crop – Bt Brinjal – will be on your table.  

Whether it is the laboratory rats or higher mammals, the animal kingdom has been more discerning – possibly owing to a sixth instinct which human beings sadly lack. There is otherwise no explanation for why laboratory rats, for instance, should always be spurning GM foods. And when force fed, rats have invariably developed tumours and deformed body organs, including kidneys and livers, as well as serious diseases and ailments.

We have heard repeatedly of the death of sheep and goats when left to graze in the Bt cotton fields of India. First it was reported from Andhra Pradesh, and now newspaper reports point to the south-Indian state of Orissa. However, not much is public about how the cattle react. Several farmers in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have told me that cows avoid the Bt cotton fields when left to openly graze.  

Poison In Your Stomach: Genetically Modified Brinjal (Egg Plants or Aubergines) 

closer to home ….. 

from Crikey ….. 

WA and Tas call for continued ban on GM foods

Freelance journalist Katherine Wilson writes:

The West Australian government is calling for an immediate halt on approval of GM foods and Tasmania's all-party joint select committee has issued a report saying bans on GM food crops should continue, as dispute about safety erupts between regulators and independent scientists.

Now in full election mode, West Australian Premier Alan Carpenter recently said Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) should stop approval of GM foods "until independent scientific trials determine their safety."

"I find it unbelievable and unacceptable that the national food regulator relies principally on the say-so of the GM companies when assessing GM foods as safe to eat," Mr Carpenter said.

Crikey has confirmed that FSANZ regulations rely on GM company-provided data, and do not require the type of independent testing that detected novel protein by-products and health hazards in some GM foods. But FSANZ spokesperson Lydia Buchtmann told Crikey that FSANZ has "a rigorous process for approving GM foods to ensure they are as safe as the conventional variety”, including requiring tests for allergens.

"To date FSANZ has not found justification for rejecting a GM food on safety grounds. Regulators in Europe, Canada and Japan all use similar data to FSANZ for assessing and approving GM foods," she said.

Just last month, Austria banned the import of a GM corn variety approved by FSANZ following review of "several independent scientific studies," according to Austria's Consumer Protection Minister Barbara Prammer. One of these found evidence of organ toxicity in rats fed the GM corn. The peer-reviewed study, published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, is rejected by FSANZ, which says the study "did not identify any public health and safety concerns associated with the genetic modification used to produce" the insect-resistant corn.

But geneticist and former US National Institute of Health scientist Professor Jack Heinemann said FSANZ "did not use the internationally accepted protocol for carrying out a rigorous scientific analysis". Among other scientists who dispute FSANZ’s claims is nutritional biochemist and epidemiologist Dr Judy Carman, who is commissioned by the West Australian government to undertake independent studies into the safety of GM foods.

Dr Carman told Crikey: "The GM pea provides a clear example of the failings of our current GM food regulatory regime. The pea failed miserably on all the [independent health] tests conducted. These tests are not required by our food regulator. There is clear and robust scientific evidence that the allergy assessment conducted by our food regulator is completely inadequate. They continue to ignore this evidence.

"Independent or animal feeding studies are not considered necessary by FSANZ "where GM varieties have been shown to be compositionally equivalent to conventional varieties.

"But "a proper compositional analysis would compare most of the substances, including proteins, between the GM crop and a comparable non-GM crop," said Carman.

"FSANZ does not do this. Instead, it usually just compares the concentrations of the amino acids in the GM crop and a similar non-GM crop. This is like comparing the fire safety of two buildings -- not by comparing fire evacuation plants, stairwells, and extinguishers, but by bulldozing the buildings and counting the bricks.

"Still, many scientists support FSANZ, including Adelaide University crop scientist Dr Christopher Preston, Melbourne University microbiologist Dr David Tribe, Australia's chief scientist, Dr Jim Peacock and Victoria's Chief Scientist, Sir Gustav Nossal. CSIRO Plant Industry Deputy Dr TJ Higgins told Crikey: "CSIRO Plant Industry supports FSANZ's comprehensive evaluation of GM foods.

"FSANZ points out that many of the studies that have linked novel proteins and their byproducts in GM foods to allergic reactions, organ damage and precancerous growths in animals are not peer-reviewed -- and FSANZ disputes the findings of those that are.

But with "no government or industry funding for independent testing" health researchers find it "difficult or impossible" to do follow-up studies -- especially without legal access to GM seeds, says Institute for Health and Environment Research director Dr Kate Clinch-Jones.

Nutritional bioechemist Dr Rosemary Stanton AO agrees: "It has been difficult (and often impossible) for independent researchers to obtain GM seeds for testing.

"Dr Stanton said GM food safety assessment "should include testing by independent researchers rather than leaving the testing to the companies that own the seeds. Why not have independent researchers carry out tests if the companies are so sure the products are harmless?

"But FSANZ maintains an opposing view. "It is the responsibility of companies that have developed GM foods to demonstrate the safety of that food." Buchtmann said by the time companies submit GM foods for approval, "they have been tested comprehensively."

no daily bread for some...

Number of starving hits 925m

From correspondents in Rome

September 17, 2008 09:53pm
Article from: Agence France-Presse

GLOBAL numbers afflicted by acute hunger rose from 850 million to 925 million by the start of 2008 because of rising prices, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said today.
The number of people suffering from malnutrition, before the worst effects of global price rises, "rose just in 2007 by 75 million", the director-general of the Rome-based agency, Jacques Diouf, , told an Italian parliament committee, according to ANSA news agency.

An FAO prices index showed global food price rises of 12 per cent in 2006, 24 per cent in 2007 and 50 per cent over the first eight months of 2008, Mr Diouf said - suggesting the number affected is likely to top one billion by the end of the year.

"Thirty billion dollars per year must be invested to double food production and eliminate hunger," Mr Diouf said, calling the figure "modest" in comparison with the amount many countries spend on arms and agriculture.

-----------------------------

More food, no GM crops. It's achievable... at grass root level, employing local talents. No war.

the value of organic food

Biological Farmers of Australia Press Release 25th September 2008
Ask not what your food can do for you, but what your food can do for your footprint
 
A German study which converted emissions from food production into car-trip equivalents found organic equates to a lower number on the clock for almost every type of food production covered (1).
 
Organic production of 1kg of winter wheat crop was the equivalent of driving 1.5 km where conventional was 3.4 km.
 
For 1kg of pork produced organic drove 17.4 km with conventional up at 25.8 km.
 
And producing 1kg of cheese from 10L of milk took organic 65.5 km with conventional hitting 71.4 km.
 
When it came to diet choices, organic was also a ‘low-km’ winner.
 
The study found an overall ‘eat everything’ diet including meat, dairy, fruit and veg took a conventional eater 4758 km from their starting point, with organic travelling 381 km less at 4377km.
And where food choices were no-meat, no-dairy and organic, eater’s footprints were further reduced to a
car-trip covering a mere 281 km, 6.8% of the conventional original drive, and 348km lower than a conventional vegetarian diet.

The only area an organic approach didn’t come out in front was meat production from feedlots – organic was the equivalent of driving 113.4km, compared to 70.6 km for conventional. 
Dr. Andrew Monk, Biological Farmers of Australia Standards Chair, said it was important to remember figures were not always relevant to Australia because production methods varied.

He said conscious consumers would fare best by focusing on the whole “package”, not just on CO2 emissions, even if organic was a winner in this field.

“For example, taking into consideration issues like growth hormones, excessive feed requirements and animal welfare in meat production.”

He said there was no doubt organic food was more in tune with its environment.

“Organic systems do not use fossil-fuel based chemicals that emit nitrous oxides and damage microbial soil life – the bedrock of fixing carbon in soil.
 
Quentin Wright, organic meat producer from the NSW Northern Tablelands, says where operations were organic, business depended on doing things the right way by the environment.
 
Under organic management, tests have found his soil has higher carbon levels than neighbouring lands.
 
“We stopped using chemical fertiliser and changed our grazing system to cell grazing – a form of rotational grazing – 14 years ago,” said Mr. Wright.
 
“Recent soil tests comparing soil from the neighbouring National Park forest and our grazing land showed our Soil Organic Carbon level was 66% higher than that in the forest.
 
“This suggests to me we have a production system in place that not only benefits from nil use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, but sequesters soil carbon as well, and goes some way to balancing our footprint.”
 
ENDS
---------------


RELEASE CONTACTS
Dr. Andrew Monk BFA Ph: 0429 960 044
Quentin Wright Doughboy Mountain Livestock Ph: 0488 758 545
Media contact: Jaime Newborn ph. 07 3350 5716 ext 222, e-mail marketing@bfa.com.au
Get in touch with BFA for more information and details of Australian organic farmers in your region.

organic farming could feed the world...

Organic farming 'could feed Africa'

Traditional practices increase yield by 128 per cent in east Africa, says UN

By Daniel Howden in Nairobi
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Organic farming offers Africa the best chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition it has been locked in for decades, according to a major study from the United Nations to be presented today.

New evidence suggests that organic practices – derided by some as a Western lifestyle fad – are delivering sharp increases in yields, improvements in the soil and a boost in the income of Africa's small farmers who remain among the poorest people on earth. The head of the UN's Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said the report "indicates that the potential contribution of organic farming to feeding the world maybe far higher than many had supposed".

read more at the Independent and see also the blogs on this site referring to this... such as A lifetime of dedication or

Frankenstein's Pharm or Animal Pharm or The Green Holocaust or Boofhead morality and rogue science or see toon at top...

------------------

rich stealing food from the poor...

Rich governments and corporations are triggering alarm for the poor as they buy up the rights to millions of hectares of agricultural land in developing countries in an effort to secure their own long-term food supplies.

The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf, has warned that the controversial rise in land deals could create a form of "neo-colonialism", with poor states producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people.

Rising food prices have already set off a second "scramble for Africa". This week, the South Korean firm Daewoo Logistics announced plans to buy a 99-year lease on a million hectares in Madagascar. Its aim is to grow 5m tonnes of corn a year by 2023, and produce palm oil from a further lease of 120,000 hectares (296,000 acres), relying on a largely South African workforce. Production would be mainly earmarked for South Korea, which wants to lessen dependence on imports.

water, where art thou?...

Over 1,500 farmers in an Indian state committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure, it was reported today.

The agricultural state of Chattisgarh was hit by falling water levels.

"The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago," Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazine

"Most of the farmers here are indebted and only God can save the ones who do not have a bore well."

Mr Sahu lives in a district that recorded 206 farmer suicides last year. Police records for the district add that many deaths occur due to debt and economic distress.

In another village nearby, Beturam Sahu, who owned two acres of land was among those who committed suicide. His crop is yet to be harvested, but his son Lakhnu left to take up a job as a manual labourer.

His family must repay a debt of £400 and the crop this year is poor.

"The crop is so bad this year that we will not even be able to save any seeds," said Lakhnu's friend Santosh. "There were no rains at all."

---------------

Sad turn of events in the many related events, even small events, to global warming...

water in the milk....

From the SMH letters (16/04/09)

Don't blame cotton, rice

It's not cotton and rice that are using up most of our precious water ("A dry argument and food for thought", April 15). It's meat, wool and dairy.

According to Wayne Meyer, of the CSIRO, one kilogram of paddy rice uses 1550 litres of water, one kilogram of beef uses 50,000-100,000 litres and one kilogram of clean wool uses 170,000 litres.

In Australia, the dairy industry tops the list of water use in irrigation at 39.5 per cent. It takes 4000 glasses of water to produce just one glass of milk.

Jenny Moxham Monbulk (Vic)

------------------

Jenny, some major parameters have been forgotten in your analysis.

Most of the dairy industry in Australia is settled in areas where there is ample water supply, far in excess of "need". In the Sydney region, for example, north and south, there is ample water supply for dairy farming. Generously say the farming use 5 per cent of all available water.

Most cotton and rice are grown in dry-prone areas. Say, as you mention, that these crops need less water than the dairy industry, but they often need 100 per cent or more of all water available to be viable. Precious water is precious where it is "needed" for what we do with it...

"New" cotton farmers in Queensland have made huge storage of water and often do not allow some rivers to flow south of the border. Farming that had been established long ago in Northern New South Wales right down to the border with Victoria relied on the flow of these rivers that are now nearly dried up from the upstream Queensland crops...

cruel food for religious thoughts...

Religious slaughter techniques practised by Jews and Muslims are cruel and should be ended, says a scientific assessment from the Government's animal welfare advisers.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council says that slitting the throats of the animals most commonly used for meat, chickens, without stunning, results in "significant pain and distress". The committee, which includes scientific, agricultural and veterinary experts, is calling for the Government to launch a debate with Muslim and Jewish communities to end the practice.

One Muslim organisation, the Halal Food Authority, already insists on the slaughterhouses it regulates stunning animals first on welfare grounds, as long as they are still alive when their throats are slit. But in other halal and almost all kosher slaughterhouses, animals have their throats slit without prior stunning which would render them insensible to the pain. Religious groups say that doing so would be against their interpretation of religious texts.

hedge choclit bets

chocolate scrooges

Financial speculators have come under renewed fire from anti-poverty campaigners for their bets on food prices, blamed for raising the costs of goods such as coffee and chocolate and threatening the livelihoods of farmers in developing countries.

The World Development Movement (WDM) will issue a damning report today on the growing role of hedge funds and banks in the commodities markets in recent years, during which time cocoa prices have more than doubled, energy prices have soared and coffee has fluctuated dramatically.

The charity's demands for the British financial watchdog to follow the US in cracking down on such speculation comes against a backdrop of cocoa prices jumping to a 33-year high as it emerged that a London hedge fund had snapped up a large part of the world's stock of beans. On Friday, traders say, Armajaro took delivery of 240,100 tonnes of cocoa – the biggest from London's Liffe exchange in 14 years and equal to about 7% of annual global production, according to the Financial Times.

A 150% rise in cocoa prices over the past 18 months has forced many chocolate-makers to raise their prices and often to use less cocoa.

The WDM's Great Hunger Lottery report says "risky and secretive" financial bets on food prices have exacerbated the effect of poor harvests in recent years. It argues that volatility in food prices has made it harder for producers to plan what to grow, pushed up prices for British consumers and in poorer countries risks sparking civil unrest, like the food riots seen in Mexico and Haiti in 2008.

speculating on food prices

Banks and hedge funds in London are coming under increasing scrutiny over their practice of speculating on food prices.

The allegation is that financial institutions are buying up vast stocks of food, thereby forcing prices to rise.

This comes as food costs are increasing the world over. And as the revolt in Tunisia and other countries has shown, there is a social price to pay for this kind of rise.

http://english.aljazeera.net/video/europe/2011/02/2011217204028299430.html

see toon at top...

food — not cars...

Sitting in the shade of a tree beside his thatched mud hut in in Kenya's Dakatcha Woodlands, Joshua Kahindi Pekeshe is defiant.

"We are not going to let this land go even if it means shedding blood," he told the BBC.

"Land is very important to us. We farm and get our livelihood from it. On this land we bury our dead."

He is one of the many people opposed to the creation of a large biofuel plantation in the area, about an hour's drive inland from the coastal town of Malindi.

It is an arid area and home to some 20,000 people as well as globally threatened animal and bird species.

Ambitious goals

An Italian company has asked the authorities for permission to lease 50,000 hectares there to grow jatropha, whose seeds are rich in oil that can be turned into bio-diesel.

This plant, originally from South America, has long been grown in Africa as a hedge to keep out animals - goats stay well away as it is poisonous. The area affected is community land which is being held in trust by the local council.

Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd is 100%-owned by the Milan-based Nuove Iniziative Industriali SRL.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12819035

see toon at top...

food crisis looming...

Olivier Dubois, a bioenergy expert at the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, said it was hard to quantify the extent to which the diversions for biofuels had driven up food prices.

“The problem is complex, so it is hard to come up with sweeping statements like biofuels are good or bad,” he said. “But what is certain is that biofuels are playing a role. Is it 20 or 30 or 40 percent? That depends on your modeling.”

While no one is suggesting that countries abandon biofuels, Mr. Dubois and other food experts suggest that they should revise their policies so that rigid fuel mandates can be suspended when food stocks get low or prices become too high.

“The policy really has to be food first,” said Hans Timmer, director of the Development Prospects Group of the World Bank. “The problems occur when you set targets for biofuels irrespective of the prices of other commodities.”

Mr. Timmer said that the recent rise in oil prices was likely to increase the demand for biofuels.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/science/earth/07cassava.html?_r=1&hp

the price of fish...

The rapid rise in prices for food, fuel and commodities has been disastrous for the world's poor, including Indonesian market vendor Lia Romi. But it's a bonanza for multinational trading firms such as Glencore.

While Romi has trouble feeding her family, Glencore - the world's largest diversified commodities trader - is planning a US$11billion share sale, likely the largest market debut ever seen on the London Stock Exchange.

"The price for our daily food has at least doubled in the past two years," Lia Romi told Al Jazeera through a translator. "Food costs 100 per cent of my family's daily income [of about $3]. I have nothing saved and I owe [money] from my [market stall] business."

While Romi, and millions like her, worry about feeding their families, the initial public offering from the commodity speculating giant will create at least four billionaires, dozens worth more than $100million and several hundred old fashioned millionaires. Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg is set to make more than $9bn from the share sale. And speculating on food prices is an important part of his wealth.

Controlling prices

Valued at about $60billion, Glencore controls 50 per cent of the global copper market, 60 per cent of zinc, 38 per cent in alumina, 28 per cent of thermal coal, 45 per cent of lead and almost 10 per cent of the world's wheat - according to information the firm disclosed prior to its share sale. It also controls about one quarter of the world market in barley, sunflower and rape seed.  

"They are possibly one of very few mining companies that are price makers, rather than price takers," said Chris Hinde, editorial director of Mining Journal magazine. "They are the stockbrokers of the commodities business [operating] in a fairly secretive world. They are effectively setting the price for some very important commodities," he told Al Jazeera.

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/05/20115723149852120.html

U.S. Suit Sees Manipulation...

U.S. Suit Sees Manipulation of Oil Trades


By

After oil prices surged past $100 a barrel in 2008, suspicions that traders had manipulated the market led to Congressional hearings and regulatory investigations. But they produced no solid cases in the record run-up in gasoline prices.

But on Tuesday, federal commodities regulators filed a civil lawsuit against two obscure traders in Australia and California and three American and international firms.

The suit says that in early 2008 they tried to hoard nearly two-thirds of the available supply of a crucial American market for crude oil, then abruptly dumped it and improperly pocketed $50 million.

The regulators from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would not say whether the agency was conducting any other investigations into oil speculation. With oil prices climbing again this year, President Obama has asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to set up a working group to look into fraud in oil and gas markets and “safeguard against unlawful consumer harm.”

In the case filed Tuesday, the defendants — James T. Dyer of Australia, Nicholas J. Wildgoose of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and three related companies, Parnon Energy of California, Arcadia Petroleum of Britain and Arcadia Energy, a Swiss company — have told regulators they deny they manipulated the market.

If the United States proves the claims, the defendants may give up $50 million in profits that were believed to be made as a result of the manipulation and also pay a penalty of up to $150 million.

The commodities agency says the case involves a complex scheme that relied on the close relationship between physical oil prices and the prices of financial futures, which move in parallel.

In a matter of a few weeks in January 2008, the defendants built up large positions in the oil futures market on exchanges in New York and London, according to the suit, filed in the Federal Court in the Southern District of New York.

At the same time, they bought millions of barrels of physical crude oil at Cushing, Okla., one of the main delivery sites for West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark for American oil, the suit says. They bought the oil even though they had no commercial need for it, giving the market the impression of a shortage, the complaint says.

At one point they had such a dominant position that they owned about 4.6 million barrels of crude oil, estimating that this represented two-thirds of the seven million barrels of excess oil then available at Cushing, according to lawsuits.

This type of oil is also the main driver of prices of the futures contracts, and their actions caused futures prices to rise, the authorities say. “They wanted to lull market participants into believing that supply would remain tight,” the agency said. “They knew that as long as the market believed that supply was tight and getting even tighter, there would be upward pressure on the prices of W.T.I. for February delivery relative to March delivery, which was their goal.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/25/business/global/25oil.html?hp=&pagewanted=print

---------------------

So what? We should be aware that all markets are "manipulated" one way or another... and most (none) do not include the damage to the environment in their equation of "supply and demand" — including fake demand, or frothed up demand via advertising manipulation that creates illusion of want, then of "need".

starve, you poor people...

They live in a world of plenty, but one in seven will go hungry today

Enough crops can be grown to feed the planet. But spiralling grain prices, stock market speculation, climate change and corrupt and failing governments have left almost a billion people facing starvation.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/they-live-in-a-world-of-plenty-but-one-in-seven-will-go-hungry-today-2371365.html

the poverty principle...

 

Droughts, storms, floods – after this year's washout of a summer, it is hardly a surprise that farmers are warning of rising food prices on supermarket shelves.

The price of wheat is 16% higher than this time last year; corn costs are up 7%; and there is an increasingly fierce battle about how to make the best use of agricultural land.

But don't be fooled into thinking this is a simple tale of supply and demand – crops keeling over in the baking midwest sunshine and hungry mouths to feed thousands of miles away. The world market for food includes not just farmers and shoppers, but hundreds of millions of dollars of complex financial bets.

Wall Street's geniuses are forever looking for new products to package and sell. Over the past decade, helped by a convincing pitch about hungry Chinese factory workers and harvests ravaged by climate change, they have persuaded investors, including ordinary pension funds, to plough billions of dollars into commodities, including food.

The Institute of International Finance has estimated that by the middle of last year, $450bn of financial assets was invested in commodities – or derivatives, betting on future price movements.

In principle, there would be nothing wrong with financiers moving into the food market if it directed billions of dollars of investment towards expanding production, bringing new land into cultivation and developing new technologies to boost yields.

But – as the thoroughly mad market for mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the credit crisis, and the resulting building boom across the US, illustrated very clearly – the price signals emerging from the stampeding herds of Wall street can be deeply misleading.

In a recent paper, provocatively titled "Don't Blame the Physical Markets," the UN's trade and development arm, Unctad, argued that the wall of money flooding into commodities has badly distorted the price signals a well-functioning market should send to producers and consumers.

"It is not commonly recognised that demand from financial investors in the commodity markets has become overwhelming during the last decade," Unctad says.

It uses a striking pair of charts to show that over the past 10 years, the prices of food, and of commodities more generally, have moved closely into synch with other financial assets, such as stocks and shares.

In 2002, west Texas oil prices, and an index of other commodities, shifted up and down largely independently of European equities – due to fluctuating supply and demand in those markets. But by the early part of this year, the three indices were moving in lockstep; and responding dramatically to each twist and turn of the ongoing eurozone crisis. "Eurozone events and market sentiment determine commodity prices, regardless of trade logistics issues, war, drought and other ongoing supply shocks," Unctad says.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/oct/14/food-commodity-speculation-recipe-for-disaster/print

Meanwhile in Aussie land...

 

A report by welfare organisation The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has found one in eight Australians are living in poverty.

ACOSS says that equates to more than 2.2 million people living below the poverty line in Australia, close to 600,000 of who are children.

The report provides the most comprehensive picture of poverty in Australia since 2006.

It shows people who are unemployed, children (especially in lone parent families), and people whose main source of income is social security payments, are the groups most at risk.

ACOSS says that despite 20 years of economic growth, poverty has increased in Australia.

Its CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie, says it is a national disgrace.

"This is the first time this figure has been counted in six years and it is deeply concerning to us that there is no reduction in the rate of poverty in Australia," she said.

"In fact it has slightly increased.

"In a wealthy country like Australia, this is simply inexcusable."

-------------------------

Of course, governments are going to be blamed... But is it as simple as this?... As welfare may appear to be a quick way out for government policies, the policies are often dependent of the capitalist system, whether they are good policies designed to "help" people... For example, when companies export jobs to cheaper places for profit, this hurts the bottom line of "poverty"... When a Liberal (conservative) government in Queensland sacked 15000 public servants, this contribute to adding poverty to the national tally. Sure most of those people get "compensation packages that bridge the gap for a few months, but after that it's welfare or a job at a lower pay... if jobs there are... Thus the government, especially when the exchange rate for its currency is bad (high), has to intervene and suck-money from the people who earn well and pass it on for those who cannot get out of hole, in which they have been thrown in through no fault of their own... And not everyone is "enterprising" or able to sell snake oil... I have lost contracts for supplies to the US for example because of the exchange rate... When the aussie dollar was below 70 US cents, business was booming... Thus governments have to manage all these factors while minimising hurt for most of the people... Meanwhile poverty in Australia would mean being rich in Malawi, I can tell you... 

The Liberal (conservative) solution is to give people less money untill they enter the slavery stage... Profits soar, poverty soars, but we are fed the illusion the illusion that one day we can make it into the riches, by the liberal (conservative) run media... Bollocks...

 

see toon at top...

hard labor ....

Hi Gus,

As you know, I don't support Abbott or his band of neanderthals, but the fact is, they are not in government & Labor is.\

And the reality is that Labor is doing no more for the poor than would Tonocchio & his gang ... they all serve the same masters at the end of the day.

With more than 40% of the Awstraylen workfoce trying to eke-out a living through casual employment, earning an average of $17 an hour - no security; no paid leave of any descripion - whilst their fulltime permanent counterparts earn an average of $47 an hour - + paid leave etc, where's the social justice?

Whilsy Julia busies herself pursuiing issues of political correctness, millions of ordinary Awstraylens are simply strugglig to survive.

You are right to observe that poverty in Australia is being rich in Malawi ... Bill Shorten's obsene observation about not being able to 'get by' on $300K a year is testament to that truth.

Take a look at the following from John Passant ....

--------- 

More than 2.2 million Australians, including almost 600,000 children, were living below the poverty line in 2010, according to the Australian Council of Social Service.

Here is part of what ACOSS said:

The key finding is that in 2010, after taking account of housing costs, an estimated 2,265,000 people or 12.8% of all people, including 575,000 children (17.3% of all children), lived in households below the most austere poverty line widely used in international research. This is set at 50% of the median (middle) disposable income for all Australian households. In the case of a single adult, in 2010 this poverty line was $358 per week. In the case of a couple with two children it was $752 (Table 1). This is the main poverty line used in this report.

A less austere but still low poverty line, that is used to define poverty in Britain, Ireland and the European Union, is 60% of median income. In the case of a single adult, this poverty line in Australia was $430 per week in 2010.

When this higher poverty line is used, 3,705,000 people, including 869,000 children, were found to be living in poverty. This represented 20.9% of all people and 26.1% of children. A major reason for the large increase in the number of people living below this income (compared with the lower poverty line) is that many households on social security payments have incomes (typically pension payments plus small amounts of private income) that lie in between the two poverty lines.

Even using the more restrictive figure, 2.2 million Australians living in poverty is 2.2 million too many.

Poverty is a social construction, not something natural. There is more than enough wealth in Australia to abolish poverty almost overnight.

Remember when Bob Hawke said that by 1990 no Australian child would live in poverty? Everyone scoffed because that would have required an assault on the rich and a radical redistribution of wealth to address the issue. We all knew Hawke was a puppet of the profit bludgers, not their nemesis, so it wouldn’t and didn’t happen.

As I have mentioned ad nauseum the share of national income going to labour is at its lowest and that to capital its highest since records began to be kept in 1960.

The OECD’s key country findings for Australia in its Divided We Stand report included the fact that the share of national income of the richest one percent increased from 4.8% in 1980 to 8.8% in 2008.For the richest 0.1% their share trebled, from 1% to 3%.

While the earnings gap between the top 10% and bottom ten% of workers increased by one fifth, the tax system ‘offset’ only about half that increase. This is indicative of deeper tax changes since 1980 in Australia. Tax has become less progressive.

Progressivity and average tax rates have fallen, and the redistributive effect of tax has weakened, in part because of the flattening of tax rates. In other words the rich got richer and the tax system got less progressive.

As to tax, according to the ACTU ‘[households in the top 20% of the income distribution pay an average of 34.5% of their incomes in taxes; households in the bottom 20% pay 26.7%.’  This seems a small difference between the rich and poor for a supposedly progressive tax system. 

The trend to flatter taxes – in other words a more regressive tax system – has been a long term one. In looking at the trends since 2000 the ACTU says that personal income tax has become flatter.

The OECD has confirmed what the Occupy people around the world could tell you – the gap between rich and poor is getting worse. Indeed, in Australia, the top 10% saw their income grow 4.5% per year since the mid-80s.  This was the biggest growth of any of the OECD countries.  For the bottom ten percent the figure was 3% per year, also a high rate of growth by comparison.

While the Treasurer in his The Monthly magazine diatribe against the three mining amigos made much of the fact that “poorest 10% in Australia have grown at more than double the average for developed economies in recent decades,’ he conveniently did not mention that those at the top end had seen their income grow even more, 1.5% per annum more. Compounding a 1.5% difference (4.5% versus 3%) over more than 20 years creates a huge disparity. As Peter Martin in the Sydney Morning Herald explained:

[T]he compounding effect of the different rates has opened up a very wide income gap. A family taking home $30,000 in the mid-1980s would be earning $68,000 today if income had grown 3 per cent per year. A family earning $30,000 enjoying a 4.5 per cent rate of growth would be earning $103,000 today.

So the rich have got richer and the rest of us haven’t kept pace with them.

As a consequence of the wealth shifting policies of the Labor Party from labour to capital poverty rates have increased over time in Australia.

In part this is also because Labor won’t increase unemployment and other social security benefits. People on the dole are over $100 a week below the poverty line.

Labor’s actions last week in cutting single parents whose youngest child turns 8 off the single parent payment and onto Newstart (unemployment benefit) is forcing an extra 100,000 recipients and their children to live in poverty. The cut in benefits is between $60 and $100 a week.

There are also the working poor – those people with a family earning the minimum wage for example. On the ACOSS figures they are about $100 a week below what is needed to survive. Indeed over 400,000 Australians in full time employment were living below the 50% poverty line. Almost that many again working part time were.

At a time when gender is much on the agenda of the babbling brook of Parliament, the real issue is that ‘women (including female children) face a significantly higher risk of poverty than men.’

Labor is doing nothing to address that. Indeed it is making it worse by consigning the 100,000 single parents, 90% of whom are women, to poverty or more poverty.

One reason among many for the difference is that women suffer a gender pay gap of about 17%. A concerted attack on this here and now could address that.

Instead Labor’s commitment to fund salary increases over the next 7 years for women in the community sector is a cop out because it is too long a time frame and the pay increases will be chipped away by inflation and enterprise bargaining. 

The arrangements also cover only about 150,000 mainly female employees, not the millions of women (teachers and nurses come to mind) subject to lower pay and recognition.

According to the Australia Institute, and I agree, Australia is a low tax country.  So why doesn’t Labor tax the rich? The simple answer is because it rules for them.

Labor’s Australia is where the top 20% of income earners own over 60% of the wealth, and the bottom 20% own just one percent.

Gina Rinehart, the world’s richest women, saw her wealth grow from $5 billion to $29 billion under Labor. She receives (‘earns’ is too inappropriate a word here) in one second what a person on the minimum wage receives in a week. Her receipts in a minute are what a minimum wage worker earns in a year.

Taxing the rich and distributing some of the wealth we create for them to the 2.2 million below the poverty line or creating well paid renewable energy jobs or both, would address poverty in a short period of time.

Over 2.2 million Australians are living below the poverty line. That is Labor’s legacy.

John Passant 

I agree...

Dear John...

 I totally agree with you... 

This s why I try to support Labor stooges to open their eyes a little bit more... The stooges on the other side are hell-bent on seeing nothing but MONEY...

The stooges I know in the Labor Party are "desperate" to improve the situation of the poor... and this might be their last stand as the "rich" swamp the populace with massive doses of opiate and illusions... These illusions being that of you can too become rich by playing the game... by gambling... by "hoping"... Hope is the last monster left in Pandora's box... But it's not hope for a better world or system of relationship, it's hope in which we'll destroy anyone in our path and become super-geezer with oodles of money... the perversion of hope is massive. And in my humble way, I try to warn Labor about the problem. And then the unions are good but some leaders are crap... But the Labor people I know are aware of the problems. The Liberal (conservatives) I know are about shitting on those who can't join their exclusive club...

 

Capitalism is the stench, the rot... But capitalism has distorted the heart of the people into a "let me grap it before someone else grabs it" syndrome... At present, the debt of the US to the rest of the world is complexed by the illusion that we owe the US for their defence capabilities...

At present, Putin would be one of the most honest politicians in the world and that says something for the rest of them:

 

 

 

IN EARLIER ARTICLES, I explained how the pursuit of profit guarantees loss, inequality, poverty, and instability, and why economic competition results in prices and outcomes that are not at all ‘optimal’. This article details the extreme sub-optimality of prices, and how they compel social problems and ecological damage.

Our current economic (and political) games use ancient habituated rules, based around the so-calledLaw of $upply and Demand (L$D). According to economics textbooks, L$D ensures that prices of goods and services function as accurate and meaningful market signals, so guaranteeing the most efficient use of resources and the most optimal of all possible economic outcomes. Yet this lofty claim, like so many in economics, depends on a plethora of unrealistic assumptions: uniform market prices for identical goods, no expenses for tracking down or delivering them, perfect foresight or no change, rising costs with the scale of production, and enough buyers and sellers to avoid any being able to control prices. [1]Even some economists admit that the assumptions do not hold, in which case, L$D-prices need not be accurate or meaningful, resources need not be used efficiently, outcomes need not be optimal, and markets can fail.

But how could L$D-prices be considered accurate or meaningful when they do not include costs avoided while pursuing profit maximisation ― costs passed to the environment and society to bear: air, water, soil and noise pollution; soil erosion and salinity; desertification; reduced biodiversity; urban congestion and gridlock; diminished physical and mental health from over-work, under-work, and the stresses of economic competition. One estimate of “only those costs which had been properly established by authoritative studies” suggested that

“…in 1994 corporations in the United States were permitted to inflict $2.6 trillion-worth of social and environmental damage, or five times the value of their total profits.” [2]

http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/philosophy/economics-2/rubbery-figures/

 

the idea of money...

When money is made scarce by government decree, when the stock market goes up or down, when the value of currencies is decided by trading... aren't we "destroying reality"?:  Life, the planet and humanity become second fiddles to the game of money.. It's a game of fantasist values in which many of the real values are excluded in order to protect those who amass the loot...


Unless the whole world says enough is enough, the game will carry on being played and those who have the cash won't want anyone else to have more than they need, making sure the need is below the line of what they can get... The system of capitalism is built on greed, that is to say that nobody "has ever enough"... Even the rich want more... but the difference here is that some people want more to buy a Gucci bag while others want food so they can survive... 
The capitalism system as adapted to present conditions is "stuff the poor and hungry unless we need them as customers... and/or slaves..." simple and not just the capitalism system. The Commies in China are using the same dictum in order to fast-track a new reality in which the poor can be lifted off the gutter into full employment in factories while paying peanuts as agreed with the rich (countries)... And we are also helping this process by buying cheap goods from China or India or whichever place our cheap shoes are made... Even our most expensive ones are made there for a quarter the price we can make them ourselves... So there... Consumerism, capitalism and manufacturing all go hand in hand under the opiate of advertising... and "growth"... Buy this buy that... Go into debt (personal) and this will make the wheels turn — as long as governments don't go into too much debt themselves... Surplus being the key to false economy at that level but then there will be international penalties should you live beyond your means — and penalties should you be successful at being thrifty. Your currency will become supercharged and we'll make sure you can't afford to export or make anything... to cut you down to size.
Economic systems would have difficulties to go back to the system of troc-exchange and localised trade — manly because of the size of "debt" which in all intent and purposes is about ten times what we can make or trade. Some people will try hard to reverse or minimise the damage done by the present system... But the system as it is poised can only be rebuilt following a massive catastrophe of its own making...  or a small personal revolution in which a lot of people individually make the right move... such as the Occupy movement... But every time the systems has a major hiccup we fix it with "sticky plaster" and hiccups are coming more and more like storms.. Can we afford more storms in our financial systems? 
Some people are trying to minimise the hiccups but it is not done to protect the little guys like you and me, but done to protect the big fish up the food chain... And governments are designed to stop the small fry revolting against the big fish, thus from time to time the governments will throw some burley...
But it's hard to know how much to throw in as the big fish might get annoyed at the devaluation of their food... And devaluation is anathema to the rich unless most of their capital is in safe havens...
Does this explains why I do not have any sense of the "value" of money?... I know a brick and a piece of 4 be 2, but money?... Nupe...