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Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System Paperback – April 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Journalist and scholar Patel (Promised Land: Competing Visions of Agrarian Reform) focuses attention on the unfortunate irony of the current world food situation, in which the imbalance of world resources has created an epidemic of obesity in some parts of the world while millions in the "Global South" endure starvation. To make sense of the situation, Patel addresses the entire system of global food production, distribution and sale, concluding that "unless you're a corporate food executive, the food system isn't working for you." "Record levels of diet-related disease" plague consumers, cruel market realities (and unsympathetic officials) doom farmers, and communities are beset by a supermarket system that provides "cheap calories" while "bleeding local economies." Patel analyzes what can be done, presenting logical recommendations and strategies for individuals-eat locally, seasonally, and ecologically; support local business, workers' rights, and living wages; create a sustainable food system-though several primary components of his big vision (including ending agribusiness subsidies and corporate farming, and levying a tax on processed foods) are clearly a long way off. Those concerned about global health, social justice and the environment will be aware of many of the issues presented here, but should still find much to learn.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Compelling. At first glance, Raj is another depressing voice in the chorus. But in traveling the world researching the book, he also found hope in international social movements working to create more democratic, sustainable, and joyful food systems."
—Mark Bittman, New York Times
"For anyone attempting to make sense of the world food crisis, or understand the links between U.S. farm policy and the ability of the world's poor to feed themselves, Stuffed and Starved is indispensable."
—Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma
“One of the most dazzling books I have read in a very long time. The product of a brilliant mind and a gift to a world hungering for justice.”
—Naomi Klein, author of No Logo
"Patel's broad treatment helps the layman connect the dots, as well as hear the voices of those who occupy the lower rungs of the global food chain."
"A blistering indictment of the policies of multinational agribusiness conglomerates and charges that their drive for profit at any cost has left the developing world starving while wealthy countries like the United States are experiencing epidemic obesity rates and related health problems."
"For Patel, it is a short step from Western consumers 'engorged and intoxicated' with cheap processed food to Mexican and Indian farmers committing suicide because they can’t make a living. The 'food industry’s pabulum' makes us all cogs in an evil machine."
—The New Yorker
"A book full of insight, that makes an important contribution to understanding that the politics of food is not a narrow matter of shopping, ethical or otherwise."
"Stuffed and Starved remains a brilliant didactic account of the powerful interests (dis)organizing our food systems, and why, when food is an object of profit, there are no modern solutions to modern problems such as endemic hunger, ill-health and environmental degradation...Raj Patel’s unique sensibility and intelligence in evaluating grassroots alternatives provide a road map to understanding and changing the world through re-centering food as a cultural anchor rather than a product, especially at this moment of environmental uncertainty." —Philip David McMichael, author of Development and Social Change
"With its conversational tone, sense of humor, and real-life vignettes from the author's travels around the world, the book is accessible to general readers and will be as classroom-friendly as Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma." —Reference and Research Book News
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Patel argues for a return to the beauty of locally and/or personally grown food (animal and vegetable), it's loving preparation in the kitchen, and it's return to being a means of gathering family and community together. We need to slow down a bit.
When you learn the true costs of the food you are eating I hope you might rethink some of your choices.
Stuffed and Starved is not long - - and well worth your time to read it.
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.
Read this book and then pass your copy to your friends and family.