What does the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs have to do with my lunch box? Quite a bit actually. If you’re in doubt about this, then you should read Frederick Kaufman’s book, Bet the Farm, How Food STOPPED Being Food.
In this book, Kaufman takes the reader on a journey to find the answer to this question: “why can’t inexpensive, healthy, and delicious food be available to everyone”? (Kaufman, 2012). If you’ve ever thought about this question, then you’ve probably thought that the answer was something like, we need to produce more food so that it can be distributed to the needy, or we need to give money to the needy so they can buy food. But Kaufman shows that the problem of world hunger transcends such simplistic solutions.
Read Kaufman’s book and you will come to understand how the lack of food, in and of itself, is not the cause of world hunger. The cause of world hunger, and the reason it has not been solved, begins on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms. If you think food is about supporting your local farmer, sustenance and feeding your family, think again.
Food is a financial product; an investment that is bought and sold on global commodity exchanges.
Grain, livestock, and dairy – all of them are commodities and all of them are for sale, even if the grain, livestock, and dairy do not yet exist. Kaufman explores the commodities markets; how they were created, why they were created, how they work, and how the de-regulation of purchasing limits on banks caused the price of food to skyrocket for the consumer. The investment banks get rich while the consumer struggles to put food on the table or starves.
Read Kaufman’s book and you will also learn that food as a financial product is just a piece of the puzzle to the problem of world hunger. The rise of transnational food corporations, biotechnology and the development of GMOs also play a role, as does the patenting of plants.
Perhaps the most startling thing to be learned from Kaufman’s book is that the United States does not have a federal grain reserve. This means that if there was a disaster of any kind, whether it be from natural or man-made forces (e.g. terrorism), and the availability of grain was scarce or non-existent, there is no safety net for our nation. Whatever your view is about grain, our nation is dependent on it for feeding people and livestock. Thanks to the 1996 Farm Bill, the federal grain reserve that our nation did have was abolished. Currently any grain reserves that do exist are held by transnational corporations, whose loyalty belongs to corporate shareholders and not to the public. If this does not frighten and anger you, then you need to re-read this paragraph.
Bet the Farm is a must read, whether you are food curious, food conscious, or want to know why your food dollars don’t seem to go as far as they used to.