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Invisible Ink

Notes for a living planet

Score One for the Food Justice Activists

 Barclays Protest 

After news reports and books raised awareness about the link between commodities trading and starvation, food justice advocates took action and big bank Barclays responded.  

This morning I opened my email to a note from journalist Fred Kaufman that read, “Yes, a book can make a difference!” Attached was a report that Barclays, a large UK bank, had announced that they would stop trading in food derivatives markets.

This was good news. Fred and I had spoken last fall about his new book, Bet the Farm, which exposed the connection between agricultural derivatives markets and price spikes on staples like wheat—with impacts around the world ranging from starvation to riots. In the interview, I picked his brain on topics from deregulation in commodities markets to what everyday people can do to stop unethical trading schemes. I wrote about it all in “Spinning Wheat into Gold,” but one big takeaway was that rallies and political action are going to be the most successful way to get banks to change and to get tougher governmental regulations back. Looks like he was right.

After activist campaigns in the UK raised awareness about the human cost of speculation on food, Barclays chief Antony Jenkins announced today that the bank would stop doing it, writes Miriam Ross for the World Development Movement.

Until now, Barclays has been the UK’s biggest bank to buy and sell on the food derivatives market. While the bank’s agreement to end such trading is a victory, one campaigner with the World Development Movement emphasized that it is not enough for banks to opt out of agricultural commodities markets. There must be increased regulation so that they don’t start again.

Here in the states—where wheat speculation was born and the commodities index was invented—we have yet to see a strong movement emerge to end such trading.

Image: Street theatre at a Barclays protest rally, photo by World Development Group.