When Eating Is an Economic Act

Photograph by Anthony Georgis

Frederick Kaufman’s book Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food highlights the peculiar irony of our modern food system: While we produce more food than ever before, nearly 1 in 7 people goes to bed hungry each night, and the hungriest people in the world are farmers. But, as Kaufman points out, this paradox didn’t happen naturally; it was aided by financial brokers and food manufacturers who view food as a commodity—a financial instrument to be purchased low and sold high. In the 1990s the regulation controlling agriculture futures was abolished, thanks to the lobbying efforts of Goldman Sachs and others. Those futures were turned into derivatives to be bought and sold among traders, and a market in food speculations emerged, which happened to coincide with some of the biggest spikes in food prices around the world.

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