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Ending Food Speculation

February 19, 2013
World Development Movement campaigners protest outside Barclays' Headquarters in 2012.

World Development Movement campaigners protest outside Barclays’ Headquarters in 2012.

The World Development Movement, whose Stop Bankers Betting on Food campaign has been pressuring banks to cease speculative investment in food and agricultural commodities, won a big victory last week. Barclays, which made an estimated £500 million ($776 million) speculating on corn, wheat, and soy markets between 2010 and 2011, announced it would no longer invest in such futures markets. Antony Jenkins, head of Barclay’s, claimed that the practice was “not compatible with our purpose.” Jenkins had previously promised to build a “socially useful” bank that would “shred situations where we’re short-termist, too aggressive, and too self-centered.”

Barclays was the largest British bank involved in food speculation, and their withdrawal marks an important victory for the World Development Movement’s campaign. But other banks, including Goldman Sachs, which holds the world’s largest portfolio in speculative agricultural commodities, remain active in those markets.

In the United States, the Stop Gambling on Hunger group  is campaigning towards a similar goal. Barclays’ announcement is an important first step.

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