Monday is World Hunger Day, and we must address rising food prices all over the planet.

Food prices rose 8 percent from December to March, the World Bank reports. But the escalating cost of food does not affect everyone in the same way. A typical American family spends no more than 10 percent of its budget on food, whereas the world’s poorest 2 billion spend between 50 percent and 70 percent of their meager income on food.

There has been no shortage of explanations for the bump in food prices: weather disasters linked to global warming, the biofuels boom, skyrocketing oil prices and the prosperous Indian and Chinese middle classes’ newly found taste for hamburgers.

But most commentators tend to keep pretty quiet about another very important factor that endangers food security: financial speculation in agricultural commodities.

Speculators deal in commodities that they neither produce nor consume. Their profits come from futures contracts, which are essentially bets that the price of a given commodity will rise or fall. These contracts are themselves commodities, traded among financial institutions.

The speculator does not work in the real world economy, in which goods and services are sold to real people, but works instead in the finance economy, where you can get rich by buying and selling stock without contributing anything to society. Just think of the comedy film “Trading Places” or the anti-hero Gordon Gekko in the Oliver Stone classic “Wall Street.”

There has always been speculation, as far back as ancient Greece. But today it’s a whole different game. As a result of the financial deregulation of recent years, speculation has rapidly grown to an alarming degree. Between 2003 and 2008, investment in indexes linked to commodities multiplied twentyfold, ballooning from $13 billion to $260 billion.

Olivier de Schutter, U.N. rapporteur on the right to food, has spoken up more than once about the dangerous link between uncontrolled speculation and hunger. And so have an increasing number of organizations, including Friends of the Earth and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

So when it comes to taking action against world hunger, rather than joining the aid bandwagon of Bono and Jeffrey Sachs, or embracing the biotech crops of Monsanto and the Gates Foundation, we would be better advised to rethink the faulty economics of so-called free markets.

None other than Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has repeatedly made warnings to this effect: “Neoliberal market fundamentalism was always a political doctrine serving certain interests. It was never supported by economic theory. Nor, it should now be clear, is it supported by historical experience.”

The interests that this free market fundamentalism serves are not those of the world’s hungry. They should not have to pay such a dreadful price for it — or for their food.

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, journalist and environmental educator. He can be reached at

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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