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VINE VOICEon July 22, 2006
"Hungry Corporations" by Helena Paul and Ricarda Steinbrecher is an excellent introduction to the corporate agribusiness and biotechnology industry. The author's discussion and analysis of how industry and government are collaborating to literally force-feed a profit-driven agenda on a mostly uncaring or unknowing public is eye-opening. The book is well-supported by ample research and scores of real life news stories and case studies, which lends a high credibility factor to the authors; the solid scholarship in this book contrasts sharply with the hyperbolic and misleading claims emanating from the agribusiness sector, which makes the industry appear to be particularly insidious and cynical.

The authors dispel industry's claim that genetically modified (GM) crops have been developed as a supply-side solution to alleviate hunger, which in fact is a problem that is attributable to economic and social inequality. Public relations (PR) firms have been successful in stoking the public imagination and belief in miracles to put a Panglossian spin on the agribusiness industry's dangerous experiments. We learn how industry propaganda often works in tandem with government trade initiatives to promote corporate agribusiness interests overseas. Therefore, to the extent that the U.S. is home to the most influential biotech companies and the most influential government player in the globalization game, the PR industry's success in pacifying the U.S. public has been key to GM crops gaining wider acceptance worldwide.

The book discusses the many ill effects of the biotech revolution, which includes a loss of indigenous knowledge, decreased genetic diversity and contamination of non-GM plants. All of this, of course, comes on the heels of the Green Revolution which had boosted world agricultural output at the cost of significant soil and water depletion as well as the displacement of millions of small farmers from their fields. The authors are rightly worried that this ongoing assault upon the productive capacities of the earth and the people who live closest to the land could spell disaster for us all; with knowledge transferred from the field to the laboratory, the likelihood of catastrophic events atributable to disease and pest infestations increases while humankind's collective ability to adapt to rapidly-changing environmental conditions decreases. Pointing to resistance movements in the global south, however, the authors are hopeful that a diversity of local, sustainable farming practices might provide solutions.

To that end, "Hungry Corporations" serves to help readers become better informed about these critical issues. I highly recommend it to everyone concerned about their own health, the future of the food supply and the health of our planet.
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