Research now shows the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East this year were triggered by spikes in global food prices fueled by speculators betting on the price of agricultural commodities. This financial speculation was made possible thanks to market deregulation under the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, the same legislation that introduced obscure financial derivatives like “credit default swaps” into the American lexicon and ultimately caused the collapse of mortgage and stock markets in 2007 and 2008.
According to Bar-Yam and colleagues, read paper here, by September 2010 there was 140 million metric tons of grain sitting unsold in storage facilities around the world, an amount that would normally feed 440 million people in a single year. In the face of widespread global hunger, playing with food prices as if it were a casino pushed them beyond the ability of people to pay in regions of the direst need. Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, has called this “a silent mass murder,” entirely due to “man-made actions.” “We have a herd of market traders, speculators and financial bandits who have turned wild and constructed a world of inequality and horror. We have to put a stop to this,” he said.