Since food prices rose in 2007-8, the trade in food commodities has become a focus for growing public scrutiny. Debate has centred on the part that speculation played in the price rises. Sweeping reforms of financial regulation under way in the USA under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act include measures to increase transparency in agricultural commodities trading. Similar moves have been mooted in Europe by Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier, leading to a proposed regulation on ‘over-the-counter derivatives, central counterparties and trade repositories’. NGOs are supporting this clampdown, with the World Development Movement campaigning to ‘stop gambling on hunger’.

The November 2010 meeting of the Business Forum explored the impact on the food consumption and production of commodity trading and speculative activity, and the prospects for regulation.

We are very grateful to our speakers, Javier Blas, commodities editor at the Financial Times, and Julian Oram, head of policy and campaigns at the World Development Movement. Helen Browning OBE, chair of the Food Ethics Council, chaired this event.

Read a report of the meeting.