43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2008
A very digestible read for the consumer that's liable to provoke dyspepsia in the bellies of food giants and governments alike.
In taking a moralistic view of starvation and obesity, our media, governments and many NGOs have condemned those suffering to more of the same. While the institutional causes remain unaddressed - in large part thanks to public sector responsibility being abdicated to private sector interests - we can only expect more headlines about food riots and editorials on farmer suicides, just as diabetes (II) continues apace.
The resounding conclusion is that `free market' policies remain accountable only to shareholders - not to farmers, not to consumers, and certainly not to the governments that unleashed them.
But Stuffed & Starved is as prescriptive as it is diagnostic. By identifying the grassroots organisations that have come to terms with the problems and begun to enact the social changes necessary for remedy, Patel brings to the page a message of hope and understanding with great clarity. To his credit, he is no less objective or critical in examining these social movements (as they struggle to develop) than he is of the corporations, WTO, and World Bank.
If you're interested in a comprehensive overview of what's behind the headlines, of what's causing the paradox of starvation at the same time as an epidemic of obesity, this is the book.
48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2008
In his comprehensive critique of the global food system, Patel takes his time winding his way through every stage of the food production process, through the experiences and perspectives of all involved--lay and professional--from around the world. Patel ultimately blames both corporations and governments for their complicity in undermining local, cultural, and sustainable foodways and thereby causing the major food-related problems of today, from obesity to starvation. Drenched in details and indictments, Patel's Stuffed and Starved is a broad but accessible analysis of global food struggles that aims to inform and incite the general Western public.
Despite his heady academic and professional background, Patel keeps the technical and academic jargon to a minimum, using basic reportage and narrative description to convey his ideas, analyses, and anecdotes. As such, the book has the possibility of appealing to an audience beyond the academy. However, based on Patel's political bent, Stuffed and Starved is still most likely to play better to a more leftward-leaning and politically-engaged audience.
The breadth of Stuffed and Starved is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. Patel does not shy away from his stated task of examining the global food system in all its overwhelming complexity. He does explain in the introduction that he tries to maintain organization by arranging the chapters according to what should chronologically be the beginning of the food cycle--farming--and then winding his way through each of the stages of food production and distribution until he ends up at consumption. However, the complexity of the system, the global scope of the project, and Patel's own intimate knowledge and passion for the subject work against any kind of neat-and-tidy organization or argument. Although such complexities speak volumes about the current state of the global food system and the major problems within it, they also can be confusing on a number of different levels.
Overall, Stuffed and Starved is an informative introduction for the lay reader interested in political issues related to food production, distribution, and consumption around the world, particularly those who appreciated Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and would like a look beyond the North American context. Academic audiences may also find Patel's text useful for the broad coverage that he gives to various food-related economic and political problems all over the world, as well as his extensive bibliography and research. The book can be used almost like a reference text in this way, indexing an expanse of contemporary food-related issues.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2008
In his new book, "Stuffed and Starved," Raj Patel hits a nerve, or rather a whole digestive system worth of nerves. Until late, these two hot topics-obesity and the food crisis- were discussed separately. Patel's research shows why and how there are now more obese people than ever before, and more starving people. Patel takes an original view and places the blame not just on the governments, but on their famous trade agreements that we all thought were so fabulous-NAFTA ring a bell? He discusses how the "consumer" market and trade agreements are what have caused an increase in percentage of farmer suicides, food riots, and starving communities throughout the world. The book is a fast read, full of stuff you definitely didn't know. Although perhaps intended for the political or activist type, it's a worthwhile, interesting read for anyone who shops at a supermarket, a Wal-Mart, is thinking of going organic, or is upset about the rising cost of food. Not only does Patel offer a hearty argument for his points, but he offers a 10-step "fix" for us, everyday folk to start taking to help the problem....that, at least is worth the buy/read-in...
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2012
This is an excellent book, logical, full of information and clearly written. For years, I have had serious doubts and alternative thoughts about our modern society, and wondered how it is that most people seem to see it quite differently than I do. It was such a pleasure to read this book and have my thoughts expressed so well, and those doubts and questions answered. I never thought I could read a book about economics and not go to sleep or give up in disgust, but I practically swallowed this one in one gulp and wished for more.
My only criticism of the book is that there are a few typos and bungled sentences.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
"Stuffed and Starved" by Raj Patel is an ambitious piece of research and critical analysis of the world food system. As both a seasoned policy analyst and news reporter, Mr. Patel's thinking has been enriched through interactions with farmers, businesspeople, policymakers, and activists in four continents. Sharing his thoughts and experiences in an intelligent, mature and accessible manner, Mr. Patel contends that the corporate dominance of the global food production and distribution system must be challenged at the pain of pushing humanity into an ever more insecure and unsustainable future.
Mr. Patel's core argument is that a relatively small number of giant corporations have used their power to benefit themselves at great cost to people's health and the environment. To help build his case, Mr. Patel traveled to Brazil, India and the U.S. to find small farmers who are all but forced to produce food under exploitative terms set by the agribusiness giants. Under these conditions, it is not surprising that farmers who are pressed to merely survive are becoming less and less concerned about conserving land and water resources, much less with preserving the unique varieties of crops that might otherwise enrich our collective experience with food. Instead, farmers tend to produce commodity goods such as soy beans that are often shipped to distant consumers located thousands of miles away; the author follows the flow of product through the supply chain to document and contrast how individual farmers receive next to nothing from their labors while heavily-capitalized distributors, processors and retailers gain enormous profits. Meanwhile, consumers in developed countries gain access to an abundance of cheap but nutritiously-dubious food while many in poorer countries live calorie-deficient lives.
Throughout the text, Mr. Patel provides valuable perspective and context. Mr. Patel views the Green Revolution of the 1960s as an attempt to help India and other recipient countries to resist communism and only secondarily as a project to support the local inhabitants. In fact, Mr. Patel discusses how the inroads made by multinational firms into the Indian farming economy has allowed these companies to successfully market patented pesticides, seeds and farm implements while simultatenously attempting to secure intellectual property rights to indigenous knowledge. Mr. Patel goes on to explain that the rubric of improving the lives of the poor has more recently been used by the biotech industry to market products such as 'golden rice', a food that offers a non-solution to the underlying conditions that drive poverty and malnutrition.
Interestingly, Mr. Patel shows how the military's development of packaged foods production and distribution laid the groundwork for the industrial system we take for granted today. Mr. Patel deconstructs the modern supermarket to demonstrate that the illusion of choice serves to alienate and distract us from our relative powerlessness, pointing out that the corporate food system's heavy dependence on oil exposes society to disaster in the event of supply disruption. Fortunately, the author also discusses how people are beginning to challenge the corporate model, including farmer co-ops, the slow food movement, organic foods, and other strategies. The author is hopeful that reclaiming our food rights can become the basis for a more humane and equitable relationship between people and help to heal the planet that sustains us all.
I highly recommend this outstanding book to everyone.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2008
The price of food is skyrocketing. There are food riots emerging across the globe. It's a crisis that threatens the stability of some governments. Why is this happening? Raj Patel explains how we got here in this remarkably prophetic book. And he's not afraid to name the bad guys. Patel has deservedly emerged as one of the top experts on this crisis, and he writes with an abundance of passion and wit.
-Kemble Scott, editor, SoMa Literary Review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2009
Mr Patel reveals how the food industry operates from the farm to the supermarket. The essence of his book is how a handful of international corporations control the world's food system, resulting in unhealthy foods for the consumer, loss of living wages by small farmers, and environmental degradation. These corporations possess remarkable political power to control how the food system operates, who is subsidized, what regulations & international agreements are signed, etc.
A few of the claims made by the author:
* NAFTA (and U.S. farmer subsidies) basically destroyed the ability of small farmers in Mexico to earn a living, thereby increasing illegal immigration into the US.
* Use of Monsanto's "Roundup ready" seeds and insecticide strongly encourages large single crop farming -- ie, mono culture -- which depletes the soil of nutrients. This and other "high tech" solutions are pushed on third world countries in lieu of sustainable farming practices that small farmers can implement and earn a living.
* The vast usage of soybeans as a food & food additive has resulted in the expansion of soybean plantations in Latin America. This has caused massive deforestation, soil depletion, and expulsion of the small farmer - severely impacting the food security of the region.
* The meaning of "Certified Organic" has been diluted so that the large players in the food industry can claim their products meet the criteria.
I recommend this book with a caveat that, while apparently thoroughly researched, some of the claims struck me as having been made without particularly strong supporting evidence, but were presented because they're consistent with his general hypothesis. Just a gut feeling, and perhaps not a fair assessment.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2013
When I first picked up this book I assumed it was like many of the other "food politics" books I've read where they would take jabs at Agribusiness corporations. While Raj Patel still did do this he did to the extent where it wasn't too critical and didn't get boring. The book as a whole is really clearly written, but can be rather dry in some sections, but push through because in my opinion the last half of the book is the strongest in regards to information and assertiveness in Patel's argument. Another strong point in this book is that it doesn't move into very heated personal opinons, which was refreshing!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2009
THE HUNGER OF 800 MILLION HAPPENS AT THE SAME TIME AS ANOTHER HISTORICAL FIRST: THAT THEY ARE OUT-NUMBERED BY THE ONE BILLION PEOPLE ON THIS PLANET WHO ARE OVERWEIGHT - Ray Patel
Here's a book that takes Jamie's Dinners, Supersize Me, mangoes in the Arctic Circle and Mc Fatties, and puts them in a blender to make an intoxicating cocktail. Stuffed and Starved takes us to the supermarket aisles and reveals the stories behind the products in our trolleys, some of them very dark indeed. Raj Patel's definitive account of global food system ranges across GM crops, fair trade, rising levels of obesity and other health crises. It's a mad world where we encounter Coca Cola "cosmeceuticals" that promise to improve complexion and breast size, where Nestle owns Jenny Craig - and Unilever, home of Ben and Jerry's ice-cream, owns Slimfast. It is also a positive story of resistance in the paddy fields of India, the maize ejidos of Mexico and the Italian Slow Food kitchens, to name but a few. This is a groundbreaking look at the people and products of the New Food Order.
FROM THE BACK COVER OF STUFFED AND STARVED, Markets, Power & the Hidden Battle for the World Food System
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2009
I purchased this book after listening to a riveting interview of Raj Patel on NPR during which I KNEW that I had to read his book...an informative, alarming, frightening one about the plight of the world's farmers, the absolute control and manipulation of our food production and distribution by enormous and callous multi-national companies and the complicity of (our) government through corporate lobbying and political manipulation. I wasn't disappointed but disheartened and determined to transform my purchasing and consumption habits of food (truly of all goods) and to add my voice and pen to the many others hoping to reform this unhealthy corporate driven scenario.