Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel
20/02/2013 Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel
"Unless you're a corporate food executive, the food system isn't working for you."
This is a well considered book which will shock you.
Stuffed And Starved, as the title suggests, throws into the spotlight the idiocy of a food system which allows global hunger to co-exist alongside widespread morbid obesity.
It requires some concentration, not because the writing is hard - it isn't - rather because of the amount of information packed in to each chapter. Patel covers the food system from a number of angles to show how it is benefitting very few people and damaging many.
This sentence from the final chapter is a good summary of the book's argument:
"Unless you're a corporate food executive, the food system isn't working for you. Around the world, farmers and farmworkers are dying, with the connivance of elected officials, and at the whim of the market. Through processed food, consumers are engorged and intoxicated. The agribusiness's food and marketing have contributed to record levels of diet-related disease, harming us today and planting a time-bomb in the bodies of children around the world. Supermarket shelves offer an abundance of cheap calories, even as they bleed local economies. We are increasingly disconnected both from the production of our food and from the joy of eating it. Most of this happens with consumers ignorant to the suffering that precedes every mouthful of food. And the architecture of our neighbourhoods and working lives makes it impossible to imagine anything better."
Patel lays bare the egg timer of power in food - with a large number of producers at one end, a large number of consumers at the other, and a cinched belt of a tiny number of processors in the middle making profit from both ends. He investigates the role of the World Trade Organisation and the Food Aid programme in keeping producers in line, the green revolution in India, and the reach of chemical companies in to every area of food production.
I was personally flabbergasted by the story of American corn and the ways in which the Mexican corn producers were intentionally and mercilessly sidelined in the interests of US corn. The descriptions of the soy industry were also an eye opener. Finally Patel discusses the evolution of supermarkets and the politics of obesity, race and class.
This is a book to read if you don't mind being horrified, outraged and educated to fight back.
You can find out more about Raj Patel at his website.
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