Karl Marx once noted, “The rate of profit is the motive power of capitalist production. Things are produced only as long as they can be produced with a profit.” Does this apply to food?

Every day millions worldwide are going hungry as food prices shoot up. In the U.S. prices jumped 9 percent in 2007 and are expected to rise another 5 percent this year. Eggs are up almost 30 percent. Milk is up more than 15 percent. Grains, fruits, vegetables and meats are sky high. A trip to the supermarket has become a painful experience for American families, as they contemplate the gold-plated prices and try to figure out how to put a decent meal on the table.

Yet food is a nothing but a highly profitable commodity for giant agribusinesses. Conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill dominate the worldwide production, processing and distribution of food, destroying local sustainable agriculture in the process, and reap mammoth profits as a result. For example, Cargill’s profits jumped by 82 percent last year, as food riots erupted in many poverty-stricken areas of the world, and in our own country low- and middle-income people were forced to choose between paying for groceries or for rent, mortgage payments or filling up their cars.

While fuel costs, biofuels, weather disasters and environmental degradation are all factors in rising prices, so is the pursuit of ever-bigger profits by investors and corporate chiefs. And food has become another hot item in Wall Street portfolios. Many experts charge that speculation on food commodities has helped drive prices to the record highs we see in our supermarkets today. While the soaring prices are causing hardships for consumers, family farmers are going under to the food conglomerates.

Wholesome and affordable food is a basic necessity of life. Corporations and private greed should not be deciding who eats and who doesn’t. Wall Street hogs cannot be allowed to treat our food as their profit-trough — strict regulation should be imposed to prevent this.

More fundamentally, we need a comprehensive national food and agriculture policy that protects consumers, family farmers and our nation’s food supply and farmland. This is a real national security issue that needs urgent attention.