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Use Response Sheet—Free Lunch for a closer look at how students use their knowledge of food to make informed nutritional decisions.
Plan to read the science stories Food Labels and Healthy Eating, International Style during a reading period after completing this part. The demand for in-line nutrition analysis is on the rise as snack makers face increasing pressure for accurate nutrient content, says the sales director of Foss North America. Get FREE access to authoritative breaking news, videos, podcasts, webinars and white papers.
Half of US consumers surveyed say the fiber level of a food product influences their purchase decision.
Food insecurity has become a major global issue in recent years, underlying many of the instances of social upheaval around the world. The commodity food price index has risen relentlessly, for a decade, peaking in periods of increasing fear and financial uncertainty.
Modern agri-business has a very long list of dependencies on factors which are increasingly under threat, and as these obvious and predictable risks manifest, food insecurity will become a more ever-present condition globally. We now know that the fundamental triggers for the Arab spring were unprecedented food price rises. The world of finance has huge influence on food security, with many factors reinforcing each other. Commodity prices are intimately connected with financial, as the whole commodity sector has been over-financialized, and therefore open to speculation and subjected to the boom and bust dynamics intrinsic to financial markets. Goldman has always shrouded the breakdown of its profits in secrecy, but a WDM commodities derivatives expert has calculated the revenues it believes the bank makes from food speculation through an analysis of its recent results and market information. Commodity prices move with the ebb and flow of liquidity, and with liquidity peaking it is no surprise that prices, including food commodity prices, are also peaking again.
Lower commodity prices are not set to translate, however, into an abatement of the pressure-cooker situation with regard to food security in much of the world. The higher prices that have benefited farmers (although not nearly as much as middle men and those higher up the financial food chain), are not set to last.
In addition to direct commodity price speculation, the credit expansion and its psychology of commodity shortages has also led to considerable speculation in farmland prices.
There is an increasingly strong perception that farmland prices can never go down, and so are a one way bet for investors.
Farmers have been forced to scale up their holdings, buying ever more, and more expensive, land. Corn, wheat, cotton, soybeans and other commodities have eclipsed record prices this year [2008] as a result of increased biofuel demand, acreage adjustments, production shortfalls, tight carryover stocks, and speculative investment, Welch said.
Financialization introduces many external parties to the food production equation, and each must manage their own disparate risks. All during the war [WWI], Food Administrator Herbert Hoover exhorted farmers in this country to increase production. On a broader stage, the effects of finance and the hunt for investment returns on food security are much more immediate and severe. Where investment purchases occur in places where food insecurity, or the looming threat of it, is already present, the impact on the fabric of society is far more immediate than in the developed world. The Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency, boasts about the extremely low labour rates and flexible labour laws in the country and about other privileges it accords investors – 100 per cent foreign ownership in all sectors, full repatriation of profits, dividends and royalties, no limits on expatriate employees. Investment in third world farmland is a one way street, with benefits accruing to the political and financial centre, very much at the expense of the periphery – local people in marginal locations with already precarious food security.
The investors are hedge funds, private equity funds (that are attracting even prestigious American universities with their promises of high returns), pension funds, banks, multinational corporations, and sovereign wealth funds seeking to sow capital and grow profits…. This process is a continuation of a long-standing, and accelerating, trend towards forced scaling up of land holdings and increasing monetization of farming operations. As more and more small-scale farmers are unable to compete with the larger farms, the chances that they sell off or mortgage out their land also increases.
The connection between boom and bust psychology, food insecurity and unrest is not always clear from headlines describing current events, but it is increasingly pertinent geopolitically. Every time an American signs up for food stamps in one of 23 states, JPMorgan Chase & Co. The bust phase of financial boom and bust does not play out as a slow squeeze, but typically as an abrupt dislocation once a critical tipping point has been reached. Food insecurity is clearly present at the base of the pyramid, and could rapidly shoot upwards over the next very few years.
Part II of this essay will address the broader issues of food security, including water, energy, climate, soil fertility, and regulation. This topic contains 22 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  D 1 year, 4 months ago.
Thus, from my perspective, you will most likely see no large scale collapse in the world food (grain) structure because most years you are only a few weeks away from grain storage silos running dry as you run thru each crop season. In the end, if my land goes up or down, I care not, as I hope to own it the rest of my life, and for my children to own it as well.
However, you can add interest to the investigation if you have real food packages (full or empty) for students to investigate. Obviously with the different types of nutritionals coming out, everybody is focused on the protein content, lower fat content, and maximizing the protein. This is both a reflection of the short-term fluctuations in an over-financialized commodity sector and also of the longer-term limits to growth scenario.


It is essential that we look to transforming food production, moving away from large scale industrial processes producing pseudo-food in an exceptionally destructive manner.
The first sign things were unravelling hit in 2008, when a global rice shortage coincided with dramatic increases in staple food prices, triggering food riots across the middle east, north Africa and south Asia.
This article is intended to be an overview of the first risk factor for food shortages – finance. Commodity prices, consumer prices, land required to make a viable return, financial access to land, quota systems, risk management strategies, credit and debt are all vital considerations for farmers. The firm invented these kinds of funds and continues to dominate the market, together with Barclays and Morgan Stanley. The bank declined to comment on WDM’s estimate or the impact of speculation on food prices.
High prices, and fear of both higher prices and actual shortages, can be socially explosive. We see the same combination of unbridled optimism in financial markets, asset bubbles, speculative fervour, and insiders selling out of financial assets to the public, that we have seen at other major tops.
Consumer prices typically lag changes in the money supply, and the commodity price reversals that result from monetary contraction.
Farm land prices in the UK hit yet another record high during the first half of 2013 and have now more than trebled in less than a decade. For instance, hedging reduces exposure to price risks, and crop insurance can prevent catastrophic losses. The margin is balanced daily and those profits accrued in excess of the margin requirement may be withdrawn. The whole interconnected construct is only as strong as the weakest link, and where over-leverage is concerned, the risk is systemic. Land prices then have a very long way to fall, and those who purchased their land with leverage at inflated prices may well find themselves sitting on negative equity while in an acute cash flow crisis.
As the prices realized for their products rose, farmers began to borrow money to buy more acres and new machinery, especially farm tractors since labor costs were sky high. Nor do they take into consideration the crucial importance of small family farms, which employ more than half the people and produce 80 per cent of the food on the continent…. Investors negotiate with national or local authorities to get access to land, and local communities are not involved in the discussions. Sitting on the front porch of his mud and thatch home in Pujehun District in southern Sierra Leone, he struggled to find words that could explain how he had signed away the land that sustained his family and his community. This is why land grabbing is completely incompatible with ensuring food security: food production can only bring profits of 3-5%.
Decisions as to land use and scale of operations are made by large players in rich countries for reasons of maximizing investment returns, securing control of vital sectors of the real economy in order to profit from increasing scarcity, and holding on to an asset seen as only going to increase in financial value.
They desperately need decent roads and access to local markets, processing equipment to add value to their own diverse farm produce, storage and drying facilities to prevent post-harvest losses, and basic amenities such as schools and health centres and water wells to improve rural lives, so that farming communities can thrive. These inputs are expensive, which over time caused dependency on western companies as suppliers, and a widespread debt problem for small farmers.
When the small-scale farmers are no longer able to make their payments, their ownership of the land is taken from them and in some cases the farmers and their families are evicted and thus unemployed.
The process of globalization has in general forced monetization as far down the operational scale as possible, and has increasingly cut off possibilities for operating viably below that scale. The GAI said JPMorgan and the other two primary EBT administrators – a subsidiary of Xerox Corp. There is therefore a need to underline the urgency for radical change in food production systems. Just as Monsanto and their ilk have created GMOs to destroy the traditional methods of farming and make farmers dependent on big agribusiness, the next outrage is going to be the (deliberate) demise of natural pollinators such as bees. People who have an investment in something sometimes tend to overlook the risks they face and focus on the things that they think will maintain the status quo.
As an ever greater number of limits are approached, a confluence of factors capable of compounding each other’s impact is created, and this can rapidly reach boiling point.
Considering that the index demonstrates increasing food prices in nominal terms only, and does not reflect the additional factor of worsening affordability in real terms, it represents a substantial underestimate of the actual situation.
The near-simultaneous eruption of violent protest can seem random and chaotic; inevitable symptoms of an unstable world. Smaller scale and far saner practices, with far fewer unrealistic dependencies, need to be encouraged, and rapidly, if we are to avoid an extensive food supply crunch in the uncomfortably near future. A month before the fall of the Egyptian and Tunisian regimes, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported record high food prices for dairy, meat, sugar and cereals. Disruptions in this financial web, which has acted increasingly to trap farming into an over-stretched and highly vulnerable position, can be devastating.
In poorer countries, where people spend a huge percentage of what little they have on food, the impact can be intolerable. At the point where almost everyone with the capacity to do so has jumped on the bandwagon, and all agree that the upward trend is set in stone, a trend change is typically imminent. This has been part of a general real estate bubble that has also seen much productive land close to cities purchased for lucrative development and taken out of production. Farmland ends up being bought by those looking to make money on a capital gain, rather than those with the knowledge to produce food, or perhaps even interest in doing so. The report says that this exponential growth in prices has been driven by the on going surge in demand from farmers and investors alike.


Working at the base of the production pyramid is never particularly lucrative (in the absence of distorting subsidy regimes), as one is not in a position to harness and profit from the efforts of others from lower layers.
Forward price contracts of a growing crop establish a “price and delivery provision,” Welch said, which transfers price risk from the producer to the writer of the contract. This partly a result of rising food prices and fear of shortages, partly the outcome of a liquidity peak playing out as a farmland bubble, partly an attempt to grab real assets in the face of excess claims to underlying real wealth, and also reflective of wealthy countries with little farmland and large populations seeking outside of their own borders for food security for their own people. The investment promotion agencies are developing and advertising a veritable smorgasbord of incentives not just to attract foreign investment in farmland but also to ensure maximum profits to investors. This means that low-income and food-deficit African countries, some still struggling to rebuild after long conflicts, such as Sierra Leone and Liberia, find themselves competing with each other to offer foreign investors ever sweeter deals on their arable land, so desperately needed for local food production. He said he was coerced by his Paramount Chief, told that whether he agreed, or not, his land would still be taken and his small oil palm stand destroyed. Control moves from the hands of local people to large institutional investors, and use reflects their priorities.
Farming is already well into financial overshoot, and also well into energy and ecological overshoot, but that is another story. Even if we could expect useful policy reform in this field, which we cannot for reasons of regulatory capture and systemic inertia, among many other factors, the timescale would be far too long to make a difference.
Interest from potential buyers has now seen substantial rises since the end of 2008, and surveyors note that hikes in commodity prices are leading the charge to expand agricultural operations and investors increasingly are seeing land as an economic safe haven. Other careers further up the pyramid, where this is possible, and the personal physical effort required is substantially less, appear far more attractive to the younger generation. The need for equipment has created a huge dependency on fossil fuel based energy, and with energy prices as volatile as commodity prices, farmers are exposed to many risks they cannot control.
It is easy to think that one can buy insulation from risk, but all too often one may buy the right to mange one risk, and yet be exposed to another one was not aware of. Those that fail to bring the account up to the initial required level result in liquidation of the position and the holder of the account must absorb all losses. It becomes obvious that losing parties cannot pay, and contracts only have value for as long as the promise to pay remains credible. Then after the war, as a recovering Europe and Russia began to feed themselves (and, in the case of Russia, even finding grain to export), the bottom dropped out.
For those who have converted financial assets into real assets without leverage, there will be losses in financial terms, but the assets will still remain, and will generally retain productive value over time. For instance, China and Saudi Arabia, among others, have been notable purchasers of external food production capability. These include extremely generous tax holidays for 10 or even 30 years, zero per cent duty on imports, and easy access to very large tracts of land, sometimes over 100,000 hectares. He didn’t know the name of the foreign investor nor did he know that it planned to lease up to 35,000 hectares of farmland in the area to establish massive oil palm and rubber plantations. In the short term, the much higher yields greatly increased food security, but over time a different picture has emerged, and the longer term negative impacts have been considerable. Growing numbers of the unemployed undoubtedly will leave the countryside and join the migration to the cities—swelling the urban slums. The change that is required can only come from the bottom up, though the decentralization of food production at human scale.
Demand for land is artificially stimulated and land values take make a major departure from the fundamental value of their productive capacity. As a result of rapid escalation of commodity prices, elevators and merchants who wrote forward price contracts are facing losses of “enormous proportions,” Welch said.
In 1921, the price of wheat dropped to $0.926 per bushel, and heavily indebted farmers couldn’t make the payments on all those new acres and tractors. Investors may pay just a couple of dollars per hectare per year for the land, and in Mali, sometimes no land rent at all.
They are far more likely to destroy the family farm in Africa and aggravate hunger, all in the name of economies of scale, a global corporate food chain, and profits. JPMorgan’s seven-year Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, the official name for the federal food stamp program) contract with New York state, for example, brought in more than $126 million of revenue to the big bank. As we have written before at TAE, scale matters, and decentralization, particularly in advance of system criticality, will be challenging. Where both a supply squeeze and a collapse of purchasing power set in as a vicious circle, food affordability can become drastically worse, even if commodity prices, and later consumer prices, decrease.
In fact buying land and taking it out of production could accentuate shortages, and drive up both food prices and therefore farmland prices even further, generating an even larger profit.
For instance, there has been an epidemic of farmer suicides in India – 200,000 between 1997 and 2009. JPMorgan’s political donations to the members of House and Senate agricultural committees, the ones with legislative responsibility for the program, soared from just over $82,000 in 2002 to nearly $333,000 as of 2010. And they won’t pollinate plants grown with seeds not purchased from big agribusiness.
They argue that land grabs are throwing millions of farming families and indigenous peoples off their land…. When farmers are so insecure, there can be no real food security for the rest of the population either.



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