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Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System Paperback – April 1, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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."
Time Magazine

"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."
The Guardian

"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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; 398 edition (April 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933633492
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933633497
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #819,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Gleeson on June 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
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.
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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.
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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...
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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.
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"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.
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