The people of Egypt are hungry. The people of Tunisia are hungry. The people of Haiti are hungry. The people of Yemen are hungry.
The global food crisis is the major issue driving the populist rebellions or the likelihood of rebellions in these and other poor countries. One of the main causes of the sharp rise in food prices world wide is financial market speculation in food commodities.
The expansion of industrial agri-foods crippled food production in the Global South and emptied the countryside of valuable human resources. But as long as cheap, subsidized grain from the industrial north kept flowing, the agri-foods complex grew, consolidating control of the world’s food systems in the hands of fewer and fewer grain, seed, chemical and petroleum companies. Today three companies, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, and Bunge control the world’s grain trade. Chemical giant Monsanto controls three-fifths of seed production. Unsurprisingly, in the last quarter of 2007, even as the world food crisis was breaking, Archer Daniels Midland’s profits jumped 20%, Monsanto 45%, and Cargill 60%. Recent speculation with food commodities has created another dangerous “boom.” After buying up grains and grain futures, traders are hoarding, withholding stocks and further inflating prices.
— Eric Holt-Giménez and Loren Peabody, From Food Rebellions to Food Sovereignty: Urgent call to fix a broken food system, Institute for Food and Development Policy, May 16, 2008 (my emphasis)
I am inspired by the people of Egypt. They have taken to the streets to demand democracy. They occupy Tahir Square to end the rule of the oligarchs who keep them poor and unable to acquire enough food in the face of rocketing global food prices. They are the bravest of the brave in the face of new government threats to quash the uprising.
Although Washington gives lip service in support of the protesters, it tacitly continues to back the Egyptian government through it’s calls for Mubarak to remain in the presidency in order to oversee a peaceful transition to a “more democratic” Egypt. These calls for “stability” are nothing more than a delaying tactic to either wait out the protesters or give the government an excuse to put down the uprisings with force in the name of order.
The speculators on Wall Street need this rebellion to go away so as not to draw attention to the cash cow that is speculation in food futures. The Obama administration will do their bidding at the expense of millions of starving Egyptians. The Egyptians aren’t in the streets because of democratic idealism, they are hungry. The oligarchical political system keeps them poor and unable to afford food.
Petitioning our government to do something about global food shortages and sky rocketing food prices is worthless. Maybe we should take a lesson from our compatriots in Liberation Square and instead of marching on Washington, we should decend on the real seat of of power and march a million people down Wall Street and shut down the NYSE until regulations are put in place to control the casino.