Food Speculation and its current Combating Proposals
by: Jessie Lin
After more than three months working at Attac, the ball has finally started rolling for me. I attended and participated in many meetings. With the several mailing lists that I am subscribed to on the network of Attac and its coalitions, I was able to follow issues and events that interests me.
Attac currently has a working group called “Poli-Agricole”. It is however, highly unorganized with each participant caring mainly about his or her domains. I feel like Attac-France should play a greater role on the European level in terms of cooperation and participation with other NGOs dealing with similar agricultural issues. At our last (and my first) meeting, I volunteered to be the person to follow these events. Most of Attac’s members are older, so they don’t have a strong knowledge of English, and since many of these organizations do communicate with each other in English, I feel like I can be of use.
A meeting on Food Speculation was previewed for February 15 in Brussels. This is a highly complex and technical issue of great importance. And with the current European Parliament (EP) ready to take action, many NGOs across the continent has been closely monitoring the issue. I felt like this is a great opportunity to start having Attac involved.
After talking to our co-President, she and a few other members decided that it would be beneficial for Attac to have a representative at this meeting in Brussels. I quickly scrambled at the last minute to read up on as much as I can on Food Speculation, but even that didn’t fully prepare me for the technicalities of the meeting.
Food crises can be caused by several factors, of which many are uncontrollable, food speculation, however is done with intention. It has become an investment strategy for many big European banks. Their actions have caused food prices to rise, exacerbating the current food crisis and the lives of many around the world. It’s time to put some control over it.
The working group that met in Brussels has been in existence for around 2 years, and has been in contact on a regular basis. It included groups like World Development Movement, WEED, SOMO, Greenpeace International, Friends of the Earth, etc. Their current initiative is to lobby the Members of European Parliament (MEPs) to implement more regulatory measures on the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID). The new legislation will be applied to all member states in the European Unions. The legislation is set for a vote in the summer, with a plenary by the end of the year.
Conjointly, the working group proposed a draft of a position paper to present to the MEPs mainly asking for more regulation on over the counter (OTC) trading and excessive speculation. They also demanded for more transparency on data-sharing by the means of public intervention and stronger monitoring by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA).
The group also hopes to organize joint public activities and mobilizations around the key dates of the finalization of the MiFID in order to bring attention around the issue to the public.
Much of the afternoon was devoted to lobbying strategies in the EP. This was an interesting session for me. I have had some experience with lobbying while I was in Washington, DC, but it was more informal and unstructured. The groups present at the meeting were highly experienced with the lobbying process in Europe. I was again lost in the midst of the discussion on all the councils, members, committees, etc. Unfortunately, since I am not a citizen of the European Union, I won’t be able to take part in any of the lobbying process. But for me this session is a glimpse of seeing the EU in function. The similarity to lobbying in the US is that in the European Parliament, citizens from one member country can lobby a MEP from another. On Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, a citizen from one state can lobby a representative from another state, concerning national issues of course. It’s no wonder some people call the EU, the United States of Europe.
From the round-table sharing sessions, I was mostly surprised to hear that the Scandinavian countries and the United Kingdom are the ones that are hesitant to accept these demands. The moderator of the meeting, who was Danish, explained to me that there are many big banks in Denmark that also does a lot of lobbying with the MEPs. On the French side, there hasn’t been much involvement other than a few statements for show.
Even though Attac isn’t traditionally an organization that is involved with lobbying, we have much to offer on activities such as mobilization and raising public awareness. I have read recently on the French newspaper that the numbers of small farmers are decreasing every single year. It’s without a doubt that food speculation contributes to this phenomenon. The members of Attac’s Poli-Agricole group seem to be more interested in issues on the French platform. However, food speculation is a problem that transcends borders. Agricultural issues are one that affects citizens of the world directly. It should not be used or seen as a gambling and money making strategy by the banking industry. The lives of the poor and small farmers are not to be played with.
I am to present my meeting notes to the group on March 1st; I am hoping that I will be able to convince the group to have Attac involved in the upcoming mobilization activities against food speculation.