Much has been made of the organic, local, and slow-food movements, but when it comes to feeding seven-billion people, these laudable efforts represent a small fraction of the food supply. Food has become in effect a type of currency, and the universal currency of food is pizza. Kaufman deconstructs a Domino’s pizza, tracing it back to the soil to find out how the massive quantities of wheat, tomatoes, meat (pepperoni), and milk (cheese) in it are produced. Surprisingly, he discovers a different movement of sorts, a sustainability movement being undertaken by the likes of industry giants Unilever, Tyson Foods, and the nation’s largest grocer, Walmart, a company that has taken a proactive stance on the ecological impact of its products. At the Ohio State University’s experimental research station, Kaufman considers the pros and cons of genetically modified food in a world in which new organisms are treated as intellectual property. These examinations lead us on a quest to discover why, in a world of food surpluses, a billion people still go hungry every day as food becomes increasingly globalized, industrialized, and commoditized. --David Siegfried
From the Inside Flap
In the last half decade, the world has seen two devastating spikes in the price of food, and a third may be on the way. In 2008 and 2010, farmers gathered record wheat harvests, yet more people starved than ever beforeand most of them were farmers. How is that possible?
In Bet the Farm, Harper's magazine contributing editor Frederick Kaufman investigates the hidden connection between global food and global finance by asking the simple question: Why can't delicious, inexpensive, and healthy food be available to everyone on Earth?
You will find his discoveries shocking.
Like a detective intent on solving a mystery, Kaufman travels from the corporate headquarters of Domino's Pizza and Tyson Foods to Walmart's sustainability research center, to mega-farms and organic farms and numerous genetic modification laboratories. Kaufman goes to Rome to the meeting of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and finally ends up on Wall Street and the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he discovers the answer to the riddle. His investigation reveals that money pouring into the global derivatives market in grain futures is having astonishing consequences that reach far beyond your dinner table, including the Arab Spring, bankrupt farmers, starving masses, and armies of scientists creating new GMO foods with U.S. marketing and shipping needs in mind instead of global nutrition.
Our food is getting less healthy, less delicious, and more expensive even as the world's biggest food companies and food scientists say things are better than ever and that the rest of us should leave it to them to feed the world. Readers of Bet the Farm will glimpse the power behind global food and understand what truly supports the system that has brought mass misery to our planet.