11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2009
Walden Bello has once again produced a tour de force that overturns the conventional "wisdom" of elites in the Global North. In The Food Wars, he explores the food price spike in the first half of 2008 and contends that the international economy could be in store for more of the same. He refutes the commonly held theory that increases in demand, specifically from Asia, are the main causes for the price rises. Moreover, he debunks the arguments that supply shortages can be attributed to the banning of genetically modified organisms, the lack of more commercial farming in Africa and the production of grasses and grains for "biofuels". Rather, Bello locates the problems in the structure of the international economy itself. More to the point, the neoliberal agricultural regime encourages monoculture, petroleum-based production (fertilizers and long supply chains), corporate-dominated seed and pesticide providers, government subsidies in the Global North, and futures speculation. The regime forces small producers off the land and is unsustainable. Moreover, he outlines how many governments in the Global South implemented policies that removed subsidies to farmers, agricultural cooperatives, seed banks and a host of other salutary policies in response to International Monetary Fund and World Bank advice (often as part of loan conditionalities). As the World Trade Organization (WTO) replaced the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, food production came to be less and less a community, regional or nation-based practice and increasingly became the hostage of international trade. The Northern American Free Trade Agreement was a precursor to the WTO and Bello explores its effects on Mexico (for example, 1.3 million farmers were driven off their farms). Likewise, he details the rise of neoliberal food regimes in the Philippines and Africa. He also considers the challenges facing Chinese peasants as its economy rapidly changes. Each case is different in numerous respects but they all share negative outcomes for families in the agricultural sector. The book concludes by noting that many farmers have resisted the new policies both at the national and international level. In fact, one of the largest networks opposing neoliberal policies is Via Campesina. This farmer/peasant run network has over 150 member organizations from 56 nations. Furthermore, the author offers compelling alternatives to the present structure, one that is sustainable ecologically. The Food Wars is an excellent contribution to a burgeoning literature on our daily bread. If we are to avoid food price spikes and the devastation it wreaks on the poorest of the planet, heed this analysis and urgent call to restructure industrial agriculture towards food sovereignty and sustainability.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2010
Walden Bello returns in this essay to his favorite and mightily important themes of the world's economic (dis)order, national sovereignty, the immense chasm between the haves and the have-nots and the control by the haves of major international organisms (WTO, IMF, World Bank) in order to further their economic stranglehold on the defenseless.
International and national hypocrisy at a heavy cost for the victims
Through `structural adjustment' policies, international organizations like the IMF and the WTO, starved local agriculture of State support (fertilizer subsidies, price controls, food quotas and tariffs) in Africa, South-America and Asia. Under the cloak of `free markets', they killed the local peasantry by forcing the small farmers out of the production process, while favoring international food conglomerates. A number of food self-sufficient countries became net food importers instead of net exporters (Mexico for corn, the Philippines for rice).
Living standard inequalities worldwide didn't diminish as promised, but grew instead. In Africa, the number of people living on less than a dollar a day doubled.
Walden Bello stigmatizes those countries who control those organizations and the international food scene as cynical hypocrites using double standards by imposing free trade on the rest of the world, while in the meantime protecting and subsidizing their own national producers.
Local v. global food production
W. Bello's drastic solution for stemming the bleeding is deglobalization: production of `healthy' diversified food for local markets (self-sufficiency) thereby assuring national food sovereignty and security. Local agriculture should be protected against subsidized dumping prices and against the genetic engineering industry, which with its intellectual property rights on seeds means not less than the complete dispossession of the peasantry (their seeds).
Another threat is the agro fuel industry which diverts land from food production and could provoke an increase of food prices.
Of course, W. Bello's economic vision is in no way a neoliberal one, but also not one based on centralized planning.
His solution is `real' democracy, a mixed economy embedded in the civil society; not a society driven by the economy, but an economy driven by a democratic society. His proposed measures are land redistribution, reduction of environmental disequilibria (not chemical-intensive agriculture or biotechnology) and certainly not a market system which favors monocultures and monopoly profits.
Walden Bello's eminent book is a must read for all those who want to understand the world we live in.
I also highly recommend F. William Engdahl's book `Seeds of Destruction' and the movie 'Food Inc.' by Robert Kenner.
on December 11, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I loved this book! Bello really breaks what could be complex subject matter down into easy to comprehend passages and chapters. I had to read a lot of works by David Harvey, Adam Smith, Marx, and Hardin about the subject of economic and population theories for my class and struggled with those readings at times. But when it came time to incorporate some of what I had been learning into the examination of real life scenarios Bello broke the subject down beautifully. If you've ever struggled to really understand what neo-liberalism or structural adjustment policies are and how they affect a country then you should read this book.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I had to purchase this book for a class. It is not an enjoyable read but it was very informative. Be ready to look up the cases and other material that he references.