Food security - malfeasance rears its head.

When systems are running under serious pressure, it takes very little to collapse the whole system. Complex systems do not degrade elegantly, they strain to return to the previous normal and then they collapse rapidly. As well as broad economic problems and climate change affecting our ability to grow the food we have been sued to, when things are stretched they are also vulnerable to opportunistic attacks. Like this; Price alert as tomato crop sabotaged
Tomato prices across Australia could double or triple in coming months after millions of seedlings were poisoned in an act of mass sabotage in north Queensland.
About seven million plants, including about four million tomato seedlings, have been lost after they were poisoned with a herbicide at a Bowen nursery last month.Other affected crops include capsicum, melons and eggplant.

Bowen Growers Association spokeswoman Denise Kreymborg said the Bowen region was the largest producer of winter vegetables and the poisoning would affect about 30 to 40 growers in the area.

[...] Whitsunday Mayor Mike Brunker said it was the fourth time crops had been sabotaged in the region in the past decade.

[...] Townsville Police Acting Inspector Dave Miles said 12 detectives were working on the case and would investigate possible links with the previous poisonings.

He said a range of possible motives were being considered.

''It could be a grudge, it could be competition based, it could be the result of time-established market share, or it could be an act of vandalism by a couple of young hoons - we can't rule that out either,'' he said.

... Ms Kreymborg said the poisoning was on a much larger scale than previous incidents.

She said the loss of revenue would be hard for growers after a tough year last year and weak performance in recent months.

''There could quite possibly be growers who are affected in that way,'' she said.

''They're not breaking even right now and they probably won't be next month either, and then in September they won't be making any money at all.''

She called on consumers to support growers by buying local produce.

''We really need consumers to go and ask where the produce comes from and to buy even one extra tomato to support the industry now so it doesn't fall over.

The list of possible causes gives me the shivers. Grudges I can cope with, vandalism even (after all, every bushfire season sees prosecutions of deliberate fire starting in the tinder landscape) but when we have to consider "it could be competition based, it could be the result of time-established market share" we are into serious territory. The market as criminal arrives.

And when we get into that discussion, that event is trivial compared with this one.

How Goldman Sachs Gambled On Starving the Poor - And Won
In 2006, financial speculators like Goldman's pulled out of the collapsing US real estate market, and they were looking for somewhere else to make their stash of cash swell. They started to buy massive amounts of derivatives based on food: they reckoned that food prices would stay steady or rise while the rest of the economy tanked. Suddenly, the world's frightened investors stampeded onto this ground and decided to buy, buy, buy.
So while the supply and demand of food stayed pretty much the same, the supply and demand for contracts based on food massively rose - which meant the all-rolled-into-one price for food on people's plates massively rose. The starvation began.

The food price was now being set by speculation, rather than by real food. The hedge fund manager Michael Masters estimated that even on the regulated exchanges in the US - which take up a small part of the business - 64 percent of all wheat contracts were held by speculators with no interest whatever in real wheat. They owned it solely to inflate the price and sell it on. Even George Soros said this was "just like secretly hoarding food during a hunger crisis in order to make profits from increasing prices." The bubble only burst in March 2008 when the situation got so bad in the US that the speculators had to slash their spending to cover their losses back home.

When I asked them to comment on the charge of causing mass hunger, Merrill Lynch's spokesman said: "Huh. I didn't know about that." He later emailed to say: "I am going to decline comment." Deutsche Bank also refused to comment. Goldman Sachs were a little more detailed in their response: they said "serious analyses... have concluded index funds did not cause a bubble in commodity futures prices", offering as evidence a single statement by the OECD.

How do we know this is wrong? As Professor Ghosh points out, some vital crops are not traded on the futures markets, including millet, cassava, and potatoes. Their price rose a little during this period - but only a fraction as much as the ones affected by speculation. Her research shows this speculation was "the main cause" of the rise.

So it has come to this. The world's wealthiest speculators set up a casino where the chips were the stomachs of hundreds of millions of innocent people. They gambled on increasing starvation, and won. This is what happens when you follow the claim that unregulated markets know best to the end of the line. The finance sector's Wasteland moment created a real wasteland. What does it say about our political and economic system that we can so casually inflict such misery, and barely even notice?

On the large and small scale, growing actual food for yourself and being able to share it with your neighbours is becoming even more essential. These are corrupt actions that we know about, the one that we have to be prepared for is the next one which can strike anywhere, any time.

How resilient are you feeling right now?

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Comment by Earl Mardle on July 14, 2010 at 9:58am
Steve. That looks like resilience to me.

I'm interested in the vinegar thing. I have bought a shop press that I want to convert to fruit pressing and I'd be glad of any advice on how to do that. Photo here.

I have a batch of plum wine ready for decanting. Because of other disruptions it has stopped fermenting on its own so I expect it to be dry as hell and god knows what the taste will be, but if I could convert it to plum vinegar as a fallback position, I'd be more than happy.
Comment by steve william on July 14, 2010 at 2:01am
yea i've been making it my mission to teach all my friends grow veges and teaching seed saving etc.
there's resistance at first and after a month or so when the veges are cranking it's all smiles!

i think my resilience comes from the fact that i have studied up on all the wild plants i can eat and use for medicinal i've been eating dandelion, puha, lambs quarter etc. alot, most people wouldn't eat that stuff if their lives depended on it.
i just have the a standard vege garden with a few fruit trees but i haven't bought veges for a year or two. if the food system collapsed i'd have to start making my own vinegar for pickling and sugar would no longer be there to make jam, but i'm sure i could go without.


i don't really think there would be a major problem anyway. trains would still run without petrol. so transporting food would be sweet. people work together already. we aren't stupid (even though the establishment pretends so) it would be the end of imported food which in my opinion would be better anyway.

if everything did come crashing down i'm sure it would still be a shock to me but i rekon the best things in life are a challenge, i'm up for anything
Comment by Earl Mardle on July 13, 2010 at 9:46pm
Hi Steve.

I know the feeling about the rest of the backyards in the street. We have one neighbour with a magnificent orchard covering most of her section, and the Burmese refugees across the road have a few small food plants but almost nobody else grows anything beyond a few fruit trees.

I have a hit list of yards that I want to approach once our system is fully operational and I have some more spare time. I plan to try the shared benefit approach to cultivating other peoples' yards.

Meanwhile; give us the run down. What have you got that makes you feel so resilient?
Comment by steve william on July 13, 2010 at 9:08pm
i'm feeling pretty resilient actually, hehe, not quite sure about the rest of my neighbourhood judging by their backyards, i may have to install an electric fence

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