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Foodwatch Rundbrief April2014Before the latest elections for the German Bundestag (House of Representatives) the minister of finances (Mr. Schäuble) had promised strict regulations to prevent speculation on foodstuff. These (regulations) have now been presented to the public in Brussels: Every EU-country shall decide for itself how it intends to take action against speculation on foodstuffs. That guarantees the ineffectiveness of any barriers. The country that regulates least will be best positioned economically. All speculative contracts on foodstuffs will be transacted on its stock exchanges. The Deutsche Bank is already the largest player worldwide in this dirty business. The NGO Foodwatch comments on this: It is not Wolfgang Schäuble, but much rather the management boards of the Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions which decide on the way forward.

Politicians promise, financial corporations decide

That was already visible in 2011. The French president Nicolas Sarkozy appeared on the evening news of the 8th of October and said: At the next G20-Summit in Cannes, France will demand that financial speculation on basic foodstuffs shall be forbidden. Then, three and a half weeks later at the G20-Summit not a word about it in the final communique. France had withdrawn its proposition. In the interval after Sarkozy's announcement the hedge funds had mobilized their resources. The large corporations presented themselves to the Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellery) in Berlin, to Downing Street in London, to the White House in Washington, to the Elysee Palace in Paris and said: "What were you thinking about? This is about the free market, we will not tolerate any intervention in the free market." And the G20.States cowed down to them.

Placing bets on starvation

Just one of these big winners, with headquarters in Geneva, had more than 12,000 commodities futures contracts on maize (corn), grain and wheat in its portfolio. The price of maize has increased by 63% within the last two years. A ton of wheat is now twice as expensive, and costs now 211 Euro. A ton of Philippine rice has gone up from 110 to 1200 Dollars. That makes for huge profits for the speculators. The promises made by politicians however high they may be are irrelevant, as are too the people in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Karachi, Smoky mountains or Manila. For many of them it means starvation! Deutsche Bank & Co argue that the bets only reflect the true market price. The chief economic officer of the UNCTAD (United Nations Council on Trade and Development), Heiner Flassbeck, has however proved that over the last three years basic foodstuffs have risen in price on average by 37% due to the bets taken on them. Besides that they are responsible for the large fluctuations in prices.

According to the statistics of the World Bank, 1.2 Billion of the 7.5 Billion population of the world are to be considered living in extreme poverty; who must purchase their food while living on less than 1.25 Dollars per day. When Foodstuff prices explode the mothers in the slums of this world can no longer buy enough food, and their children die. Jean Ziegler, at one time the special reporter to the UN for the right to food says: This is mass starvation exacerbated by the speculation on basic foodstuff, which continues to pass as normal, as ice cold normality on every day of hunger.

Barn doors of the murders

Politicians have for ever tried to control this coldest of grimaces of casino capitalism. With the new EU ruling however a barn door has been opened to it. Already in 2009 the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown experienced what the freedom of individual countries to regulate means. Driven by the pressure of the public, he at that time proclaimed that anyone who earned more than 200 000 pounds Sterling in bonuses from speculation would have to pay 50% of the additional amount as tax. Since then particularly the larger hedge funds have moved their operations to Geneva and Switzerland, where 26 cantons are competing among themselves to attract the large capital base with low taxation levels and low levels of financial regulations. Today the small city of Geneva beautifully situated on the banks of the lake is the epicenter, the world center of speculation in basic food commodities. Even more absurd is the fact that the basic commodity derivative funds located there use the respectability of Swiss financial instruments to advertise their wares. In truth however the small print on their documents shows that they are almost exclusively shell companies of the large hedge funds and banks situated in the tax havens of the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas or other such locations. Just the Deutsche Bank alone has almost 1000 such unregulated special purpose vehicles.

"The inhumanity perpetrated upon others destroys the humanity in me",

is what Immanuel Kant had already said in the 18th century. We cannot allow that the mass murder of our fellow human beings is continued in the name of the freedom of markets. The Commerzbank, the Sparkassen and Volks- und Raiffeisenbanken (Savings and loan institutions) have already agreed, due to educated public pressure, not to sell any financial products which speculate on rising food prices. This pressure must grow until even Goldman Sachs and the Deutsche Bank can no longer afford to feed their greed for profits with the starvation of the poorest of the poor.

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