Civil Society Groups Urge President Obama and Congress to Curb Food Speculation to Fight the Global Hunger Crisis
March 27th, 2009
Letter to White House, Congressional Leaders Demands Swift Action
WASHINGTON, DC – Tuesday, a coalition of faith, hunger, international development, farm and food organizations including the Oblate JPIC Office, sent a letter to President 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.”
“As governments and regulators consider the changes necessary to financial and commodities markets, eliminating the kinds of speculation that contributed to the destructive escalation of costs for food and fuel especially in the poorest countries around the world will be imperative. Investors will also have to increase their scrutiny of the activities that those who manage their assets are employing.” Said Séamus Finn, OMI, Director of the Oblate Justice, Peace/Integrity of Creation Office and active member of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.
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 would be 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 the entire range of commodity futures speculation is covered and that giant investment funds do not exert undo speculative pressures on food prices.