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Stuffed And Starved: Markets, Power And The Hidden Battle For The World Food System

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It’s a perverse fact of modern life: There are more starving people in the world than ever before, while there are also more people who are overweight. To find out how we got to this point and what we can do about it, Raj Patel launched a comprehensive investigation into the global food network. It took him from the colossal supermarkets of California to India’s wrecked It’s a perverse fact of modern life: There are more starving people in the world than ever before, while there are also more people who are overweight. To find out how we got to this point and what we can do about it, Raj Patel launched a comprehensive investigation into the global food network. It took him from the colossal supermarkets of California to India’s wrecked paddy-fields and Africa’s bankrupt coffee farms, while along the way he ate genetically engineered soy beans and dodged flying objects in the protestor-packed streets of South Korea. What he found was shocking, from the false choices given us by supermarkets to a global epidemic of farmer suicides, and real reasons for famine in Asia and Africa. Yet he also found great cause for hope—in international resistance movements working to create a more democratic, sustainable and joyful food system. Going beyond ethical consumerism, Patel explains, from seed to store to plate, the steps to regain control of the global food economy, stop the exploitation of both farmers and consumers, and rebalance global sustenance.


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It’s a perverse fact of modern life: There are more starving people in the world than ever before, while there are also more people who are overweight. To find out how we got to this point and what we can do about it, Raj Patel launched a comprehensive investigation into the global food network. It took him from the colossal supermarkets of California to India’s wrecked It’s a perverse fact of modern life: There are more starving people in the world than ever before, while there are also more people who are overweight. To find out how we got to this point and what we can do about it, Raj Patel launched a comprehensive investigation into the global food network. It took him from the colossal supermarkets of California to India’s wrecked paddy-fields and Africa’s bankrupt coffee farms, while along the way he ate genetically engineered soy beans and dodged flying objects in the protestor-packed streets of South Korea. What he found was shocking, from the false choices given us by supermarkets to a global epidemic of farmer suicides, and real reasons for famine in Asia and Africa. Yet he also found great cause for hope—in international resistance movements working to create a more democratic, sustainable and joyful food system. Going beyond ethical consumerism, Patel explains, from seed to store to plate, the steps to regain control of the global food economy, stop the exploitation of both farmers and consumers, and rebalance global sustenance.

30 review for Stuffed And Starved: Markets, Power And The Hidden Battle For The World Food System

  1. 5 out of 5

    angela

    Saying: READ THIS BOOK! is the most logical place to begin this review. Seriously. Read it. This is an incredibly nuanced look at the global food market. He addresses everything from rural poverty, failure, and farmer suicide (in the Global North and Global South) to the bottlenecks in our global food chain (mostly at the distributor and retailer level, where distributors are increasingly the same people as the retailers) to supermarkets to worker's rights and movements to obesity to monoculture Saying: READ THIS BOOK! is the most logical place to begin this review. Seriously. Read it. This is an incredibly nuanced look at the global food market. He addresses everything from rural poverty, failure, and farmer suicide (in the Global North and Global South) to the bottlenecks in our global food chain (mostly at the distributor and retailer level, where distributors are increasingly the same people as the retailers) to supermarkets to worker's rights and movements to obesity to monoculture farming. It sounds all pretty routine, but the way he addresses them are incredibly nuanced and compelling. For instance, he addresses the rise of supermarkets and megastores in the Global South. On the one hand, they spell ruin for local stores and markets. But on the other hand, in rural South Africa it means convenience for poor women who will no longer have the time-consuming (and apparently unpleasant) task of traditionally preparing corn by hand and instead can buy it. Given these two options, women opt for the supermarket when they really wish for the means to process (mill?) the corn with machinery available to them. Also, for instance, in addressing obesity his analysis goes beyond what we popularly read about "poor food choices" and "lazy people", etc. Instead, he takes aim at the ways in which the global food system is what reduces individual choice through a global system of low wages forcing people to work two jobs, double-shifts, overtime, etc. and rely on convenience foods, buy the cheapest foods, and the fact that supermarkets are less likely to locate in poor neighbourhoods and that when they do the food they stock are more likely to be those tied to obesity. I can't explain his entire argument here but rest assured, this is not a fatphobic analysis. In fact, he takes aim at bulimia and anorexia and gives a nod to the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. He offers a range of examples for making change but is not blindly supportive of even the more positive choices we have. He criticizes the organic farming in so far as it's a primarily corporate affair and leads to monoculture, conventional industrial, low-wage farming practices, and food still being transporting over long distances. He is critical of fair trade practices supporting all of the above and additionally possibly only have the effect of throwing a "few extra pennies" at fair trade farmers without changing the global food market system and principally only allows farmers to hang on "a little longer". And he offers limited criticisms of Community Supported Agriculture Programs (CSAs), the kind that typically deliver a "basket" of fruits and vegetables coming from local farms to those who subscribe to the service. He finds examples of CSAs (I think he uses a mostly Californian examples) that tragically underpay undocumented workers who have no job security and often unsafe or illegal work conditions such as 12 hour days with minimal breaks. He doesn't argue that we shouldn't support organics, Fair Trade practices (he often purchases fair trade, himself) or CSAs (he's a huge supporter of CSAs as a model for change throughout his book) but instead gives what I think is a fair critique of all of these things. And these things that need to be discussed or else the problems cannot be addressed. The only critique I have about this book is that while he pays a great deal of attention to gender and women's rights/women's roles when it comes to production of food (and shows some amazing examples of how women can be further empowered through new farming practices and new food market models), I think he could stand to pay more attention in his discussion of the growing reliance on convenience foods to the fact that women primarily carry the multiple burdens of working, buying the food, preparing the food (in addition to caring for children) alone (or quite unequally). And for there to be a shift to more fresh ingredients, it will require more than "families" (a word that he uses frequently, without much discussion of what that means in practice) wanting to switch. It will require a shift in gender roles. I have a secondary critique. He very briefly addresses industrial meat practices and the way they hurt individuals and the environment (never mind the animals) and he gives only a small mention and a footnote to the idea that perhaps vegetarianism (or greatly reduced consumption of meat) might also greatly improve our lot when it comes to global food markets, environmental resources, and food security. But given that he probably wants this book to remain accessible to the great number of people who cannot imagine being vegetarian (or don't buy the arguments), I can understand (but not quite forgive) this omission. I'll end the same way I began this review. READ IT. Buy it. Visit the website (www.stuffedandstarved.org.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I really wanted to like this book! I really wanted to read it to the last page without skimming. The subject matter is fascinating to me--the food politics of the US and the rest of the world. It seem that Patel and I have a lot of similar opinions about many things, such as the WTO, NAFTA, and the UN. However, we do not agree on why we do not like them. However, what he suggests to do about it is nearly the opposite of what I would do, policy-wise. I was also a bit turned off by the extent of h I really wanted to like this book! I really wanted to read it to the last page without skimming. The subject matter is fascinating to me--the food politics of the US and the rest of the world. It seem that Patel and I have a lot of similar opinions about many things, such as the WTO, NAFTA, and the UN. However, we do not agree on why we do not like them. However, what he suggests to do about it is nearly the opposite of what I would do, policy-wise. I was also a bit turned off by the extent of his suggestion that we are completely controlled by a huge big brother who removes the element and definition of choice from our minds. He draws a straight line between two points that have a very complicated path between them in my opinion. I believe there are many causes of world poverty and lifestyle choices, but he indicates to us that there is one source and changing that one source will change the problems. And, I hate to admit it, but it was too boring for me. The facts were fascinating, but the editing job was poor and allowed the author to ramble on about a subject for too long. I am thinking about trying again when I have more time to give it the focus it needs.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    When I first saw this book in our local bookstore, I was interested in its purported claim to trace the intricacies in the power structure surrounding global food production/distribution. As a broad primer about the different ways in which campesinos growing soy in Brazil, Koreans fighting against the WTO, rural South Africans growing Bt cotton, etc. relate to the Global North's food acquisition and lack of satisfactory distribution, Stuffed generally succeeds. There is no shortage of vignettes When I first saw this book in our local bookstore, I was interested in its purported claim to trace the intricacies in the power structure surrounding global food production/distribution. As a broad primer about the different ways in which campesinos growing soy in Brazil, Koreans fighting against the WTO, rural South Africans growing Bt cotton, etc. relate to the Global North's food acquisition and lack of satisfactory distribution, Stuffed generally succeeds. There is no shortage of vignettes painted about the people that are effected by our food policies, and those presented are often enlightening. However, given this remarkable breadth, the work comes up short due to its lack of depth. Often, the author would be working through a particular thesis or example, and leave the pages littered with unwarranted claims. I would find myself moving through a particular argument, thinking that he might provide the coup de grace for a particular practice (GMOs, NAFTA, SAPs, etc.) when he would rapidly shift gears to another argument. This was especially frustrating because I am predisposed to agree with the central tenet that there are global power structures that do not have the people's interests at heart. Rather than provide a manifesto about the abuse of power and the methods we can undertake to shift the power base back to the people, Mr. Patel settles instead for a series of interesting scenes. In then end, I felt this book could have gone further into this particular global network, but it does provide a starting point for our (global) struggle.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book differs from other food politics books I've read in that it addresses the issues from a much more global perspective. I learned a lot about peasant/farmer movements, and really found that first part of the book pretty engaging. Things start to fall apart, however, when Patel starts to move into urban US issues, health issues, slow food movement, etc. These parts of the book aren't very well developed, and by the end I started to wonder if the author didn't feel like he had to have an o This book differs from other food politics books I've read in that it addresses the issues from a much more global perspective. I learned a lot about peasant/farmer movements, and really found that first part of the book pretty engaging. Things start to fall apart, however, when Patel starts to move into urban US issues, health issues, slow food movement, etc. These parts of the book aren't very well developed, and by the end I started to wonder if the author didn't feel like he had to have an opinion about everything, no matter how irrelevant to everything else on the page. No matter how preachy it sounds. No matter how much it might contradict what he said 10 pages ago. No matter if anyone could ever conceivably care. Maybe there was just too much information to process in too few pages, but even after stretching this one out for over a month I was relieved to finish. This book does a lot to expand the discussion beyond food miles and health issues, but it covers such a breadth of subject matter in such a scathing tone that it gets downright frustrating.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lesandre

    Quite detailed. A different, refreshing perspective on food that is not all about health and obesity but rather the economic and social implications of our industrialized agricultural system and how it creates both rural and urban poor.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I’ve been aware of and fascinated by a modern paradox for a while. For the first time in human history, a growing number of people are obese and suffering a form of malnutrition. By eating a diet composed mostly of empty calories, people will gain weight but still practically starve. Raj Patel explores this phenomenon in Stuffed and Starved. Patel is a British Indian educated at the London School of Economics and as his blurb put it, has been tear gassed on four continents. There are more people I’ve been aware of and fascinated by a modern paradox for a while. For the first time in human history, a growing number of people are obese and suffering a form of malnutrition. By eating a diet composed mostly of empty calories, people will gain weight but still practically starve. Raj Patel explores this phenomenon in Stuffed and Starved. Patel is a British Indian educated at the London School of Economics and as his blurb put it, has been tear gassed on four continents. There are more people who are starving than ever before; there are also more people who are overweight than at any time in history. While the problem is evident throughout North America, Patel offers evidence that it is a world-wide phenomenon. Obesity is growing in impoverished communities even in places like India and Brazil, where hunger and obesity make a dangerous combination. Farm failures and the related suicides coincide with a food system that denies both producers and consumers. At heart is the commoditization of food. Patel identifies the bottlenecks that are controlled by monopolies. A handful of processors strip food of its nutrients, and a small number of retailers deliver those products. Patel goes beyond Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food to explain why the decline in food quality and nutrient density is a global phenomenon, and is not limited to rich countries. Patel inscribed my copy, ‘[t:]o . . . a fellow professional exile.’ He is a very intelligent, witty, and well-informed writer who can be very entertaining. His breathless manic speaking style does not hold up as well on the printed page. The book is definitely worth a read, even if it drags in spots. A number of familiar stories and quotes are recycled that could be better handled as footnotes. The graphs are not as well annotated and could be better presented. In some cases the newest data do not seem that recent. Patel identifies ten points needed to regain control over the food system, also known as food sovereignty. There are as many ideas of what constitutes food sovereignty as commenters, but Patel offers one of the clearest explanations of both what it is and why it is needed in his conclusion. Agree or disagree with his analysis of organic food, fair trade, and food sovereignty, he offers a clear program and a solid case why it needs to be carried out, for our health and the health of the world.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Harrison

    The public understanding of where our food comes from is deeply misinformed, rooted more in a pastoral myth than in reality. The real story of our supermarket shelves is complex, but in Stuffed and Starved Raj Patel expertly guides the reader through the systems of modern food production to reveal the profound injustice ingrained in their structure. We enter this narrative with stories of farmer suicides, a rising trend in the global south as more and more farmers find themselves in inescapable d The public understanding of where our food comes from is deeply misinformed, rooted more in a pastoral myth than in reality. The real story of our supermarket shelves is complex, but in Stuffed and Starved Raj Patel expertly guides the reader through the systems of modern food production to reveal the profound injustice ingrained in their structure. We enter this narrative with stories of farmer suicides, a rising trend in the global south as more and more farmers find themselves in inescapable debt to international agrochemical corporations and forced off the land that has been in their families for generations, an unbearable dishonor. To understand why families that were able to sustain themselves and their communities from the richness of the land for thousands of years are now finding themselves in such dire straights, we must widen our perception to look at the global economy and see the wider influence of debt in this destruction of local food systems. The large national debts of the global south put these countries at the mercy of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund who leverage their power to force these countries to remove import taxes that protect local food producers. As a result, local markets become flooded with surplus crops from the United States that are produced under huge subsidies. Undercut by these crops, local farmers find themselves no longer able to make a living by feeding their communities. Instead, their only recourse is to produce exportable cash crops like corn, cotton, and soy which, despite their name, yield low returns. Additionally, as these farmers are forced to cater to the demands of international crop distributers rather than the needs of their own communities, farmers are pressured into growing monoculture crops with unsustainable practices just to survive. Whereas in local food production, prices vary with perceptible community supply and demand, the prices fetched by cash crops vary wildly and inexplicable with the fluctuations of the global market based on speculation and international trade agreements. These fluctuations quickly bankrupt small scale farmers. In this environment, only industrial operations can survive. As the profits from these industrial operations are siphoned to tax havens, communities are left bankrupted, unable to afford even the heavily subsidized corn-syrup based products available to them. Thus we are left with the great paradox of our modern world: surrounded by incredibly fertile land, thousands of people starve to death every day. Against this structural violence, farmers around the world have begun to organize themselves under the banner of la Via Campesina, the Peasant Way. The rallying cry of this group is food sovereignty, which is their right to own the land that they work, to have access to local markets, and to not by abusively undercut by heavily subsidized crop surpluses. By protecting local food markets, these groups seek to stabilize the economies of the global south so that meaningful development is possible. We can stand in solidarity with these groups by forcing our government to abandon abusive free trade agreements and subsidies to industrial agribusiness. In this way, we can start to shift the balance of power in the food system away from international agribusiness and back toward food producers and consumers. For anyone that buys fair trade coffee or prefers organic produce, this book is a must read. After all, it is only when our food choices are informed that they can be meaningful.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    I hope this book gets widely read, it's couldn't be more timely, and cuts through a lot of bullshit without cutting any corners on the way to its powerful conclusions. Will post a link to review when I write one, in the meantime, I have to post this paragraph on Haiti, as I've been thinking a lot about my brothers and sisters there: p.87 “Just as workers in Europe and the US resisted the poverty of life in new cities’ slums, so did the slaves whose labour kept food prices low for the white working I hope this book gets widely read, it's couldn't be more timely, and cuts through a lot of bullshit without cutting any corners on the way to its powerful conclusions. Will post a link to review when I write one, in the meantime, I have to post this paragraph on Haiti, as I've been thinking a lot about my brothers and sisters there: p.87 “Just as workers in Europe and the US resisted the poverty of life in new cities’ slums, so did the slaves whose labour kept food prices low for the white working class. Slaves, too, had caught the winds of revolution, and never more than in the Haitian slave uprising. Inspired by the American Revolution, and after centuries of plunder by Europe, the Haitian slaves, led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, seized control of their country. After seeing off the French, British, Spanish and French again, the Haitian slaves fought their way to an independence that was, briefly, glorious. The retribution was, however, uncommonly fierce and brutal. Since its 1791-1804 revolution, Haiti has been reduced to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere by the conscious action, over the subsequent 200 years, of the US, France and Germany. It is hard to understand the ferocity of the reprisals against Haiti unless we understand the fears of contagion that its revolution inspired among the elites of other countries.” O.K., now I'll also add that there's a great interview with Raj Pahtel at alternet this week: http://www.alternet.org/module/printv... [sorry, can't make the link work, call me technophobe] from that interview: RP: All of the reasons I've given for why people are forced to eat bad food have nothing to do with choice. Choice is almost entirely absent from any of these calculations. Yes, you can choose between Burger King or McDonald's, but you don't get to choose to have time to have a healthy meal. You don't get to choose to have time to sit down with your family and cook a decent meal, to really enjoy food, savor it, and connect with it. What we're left with is this poor simulacrum of choice -- constrained between two options that are equally bad for you. Individualizing this is a case of blaming the victim. When we say that it is your fault because you're choosing McDonalds rather than the Whole Food's salad, that's bollocks because people couldn't choose the Whole Food's salad. The choice is Coke or Pepsi, Burger King or McDonalds, either because people don't have the time or the money. OR: I think that's such an important critique. To read your book is to see the infrastructure behind what Pollan proposes: to spend more time to have meals together, to grow more of our own food. I think it's critical for people who are middle class, upper middle class, and wealthy, who are trying to be conscientious eaters, to understand why they have the choices they have and why these may not be as readily available to others. RP: The message that is so much harder to explain to Americans is that politics is necessary. People do need to get their hands dirty by getting involved in social change. There is a particularly American fantasy that we can together create a better world by shopping. It's absolutely a case of thinking we can go to Whole Foods, choose the right thing, shop here, pay for this and all of a sudden we will lift the righteous above the impure.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eric Wood

    FIRST REVIEW! It only seems fitting that my first review for Goodreads is on a book given to me by my friend who not only introduced me to Goodreads, she has inspired me to seriously step up my reading game! Stuffed & Starved has information that is vital to understanding the complexities, contradictions, and injustices of our world’s food system. Raj Patel has the credentials and has done the research to provide a compelling story that covers (1) how the system is controlled and “shaped by farmi FIRST REVIEW! It only seems fitting that my first review for Goodreads is on a book given to me by my friend who not only introduced me to Goodreads, she has inspired me to seriously step up my reading game! Stuffed & Starved has information that is vital to understanding the complexities, contradictions, and injustices of our world’s food system. Raj Patel has the credentials and has done the research to provide a compelling story that covers (1) how the system is controlled and “shaped by farming communities, corporations, governments, consumers, activists, and movements” and the subsequent contradictory imbalance of scarcity and obesity; (2) connection of unfair trade practices with farmer suicide rates; (3) trade agreements; (4) evolution of the global food system following World War II to the present and how the world’s poorest people have been left out; (5) the system’s big winners including agribusiness corporations such as Monsanto; (6) hypocrisy of the so-called “green revolution” and the dire effect of GMOs, pesticides, and other methods intended to increase crop yields and profit margins; (7) the emergence and dominance of the soybean industry; (8) rise of the “supermarket” and its nefarious role in the system; (9) how the system shapes and constrains popular tastes and food choices (or lack thereof). Despite the importance and inherent quality of the material, I found a few problems with the book. For example, Mr. Patel’s approach often comes across like a doctoral thesis and not as accessible as it could be. The prospective reader (like myself) has to really care about the topic and be motivated to read cover-to-cover. There are writers whom are able to raise social awareness while injecting humor and wit into their writing. Jonathan Safran Foer, Michael Pollan, Amy Goodman, and Annie Leonard come to mind. On the other hand, Chapter 7 (Glycine Rex) begins with a quotation from Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and Chapter 10 (Conclusion) has some lines from “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” – let’s have more of that! On a positive note, Mr. Patel just doesn’t report the facts and paint a hopeless picture. In his conclusion, he offers solutions in the form of a 10-point action plan with suggestions to (1) “transform our tastes,” (2) “eat locally and seasonally,”… (4) “support locally owned business,”… (7) support “living wages for all”… “accessibility to good food… decent working conditions and dignified work,” (8) “support for a sustainable architecture of food”… But even the list is a tad overwhelming. Mr. Patel has presented sufficient evidence that a dramatic shift toward a better system for all people could be realized if a sizeable number of consumers committed to even a small subset of the items on the list. ekw

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Kors

    Very dry, slow read. If you have no knowledge of the topic of how we got to where we are with the food industry I could see this being a very informative read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Very interesting book about the global food system, corporate agribusiness giants, and how all this has shaped the things we eat every day (in really fundamental ways). Did you know that there are tons of species of apples that you will never get to eat, just because they don't grow well, or preserve well, or have tough enough skins, or generally have attributes that make them ideal for storing, preserving, and shipping long distances? There were lots of interesting factoids like this in the boo Very interesting book about the global food system, corporate agribusiness giants, and how all this has shaped the things we eat every day (in really fundamental ways). Did you know that there are tons of species of apples that you will never get to eat, just because they don't grow well, or preserve well, or have tough enough skins, or generally have attributes that make them ideal for storing, preserving, and shipping long distances? There were lots of interesting factoids like this in the book. Like most books of this nature (political) I take everything with a huge grain of salt (even though I am fairly left-leaning myself, I don't want to get suckered by someone who's just providing evidence to support only the points he wants to make). But having said that, I have read enough and seen enough documentaries (this reminded me of Food, Inc. the whole time) that it all seemed plausible to me. Plus, the book seemed incredibly well-researched (the bibliography is enormous - I don't think this guy has had time to do anything else for the last 10 years maybe!). Anyway, the gist is that huge agribusiness corporations have vastly changed what we all grow and eat. I mean, what farmer grew SOLELY soybeans back in the day (prior to WWII)? WHY do we subsidize soybeans and corn when we don't NEED so much soybean and corn, and in fact have to manufacture uses for them including feeding them to our livestock, who aren't supposed to eat soybeans and corn? The whole system is so ridiculous now... it's truly amazing it ever got to be this way and that it remains this way. He did point out that smaller, rural states have an advantage because they have 2 senators just like huge states, so that's part of the answer to why farm subsidies remain. Did you know that the livestock industry produces more CO2 in the atmosphere than transportation? Yes that's right - all our anxiety over cars and driving and our mileage, and nobody ever mentions that the livestock industry is a worse offender. I only scratched the surface--there is a LOT of interesting info in this book--but I am trying not to make this too long. I liked it. It really makes you think, and some of the background and history behind the global food system is truly astounding. If you have any interest, this is a good one. Also, he used a quote from Monty Python's Life of Brian as a chapter heading ("you're all individuals!" "yes, we're all individuals!" "I'm not" "Shhhh!"). That made me want to give it an extra half-star if it were possible. :-)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Starts out with a tantalizing overview of agriculture but devolves by the last chapter into a hash of statistics about anything from bulimia to diabetes with a smattering of anecdotes about French cheese thrown in for good measure. I can think of about 15 things Raj could have chosen from to focus on instead of trying to write a book about everything without giving anything the attention to detail that it deserves. Considerable time is devoted to describing the soy industry in Brazil, so that pa Starts out with a tantalizing overview of agriculture but devolves by the last chapter into a hash of statistics about anything from bulimia to diabetes with a smattering of anecdotes about French cheese thrown in for good measure. I can think of about 15 things Raj could have chosen from to focus on instead of trying to write a book about everything without giving anything the attention to detail that it deserves. Considerable time is devoted to describing the soy industry in Brazil, so that part has the most potential to be expanded into an entire book. Instead it was presented as a mere case study. Why not take a scientific approach and compare the soy industry in Brazil with other monocultures in Latin America such as bananas, coffee, or sugarcane. Define metrics, even if they're not quantitative, to assess and characterize the different farming systems. Is there a link between the development of a certain industry and an uptick in corruption? Violence against women? Poverty? (Stating that there are strip clubs along truck routes in Brazil does not prove that the soy industry promotes violence against women. How many strip clubs? How many new strip clubs every year? Where do the women come from? How do they feel? What kind of money do they make?) Instead of monocultures in general, he could have focused on soy. Or instead of agriculture, he could have focused more on trade policies between different countries. Or resistance movements--which ones succeeded? Which ones failed? How? Why are they different? Evidence should be presented for the purpose of drawing a conclusion, and "laborers should be treated with dignity" is not a conclusion. "Laborers should be treated with dignity, and Monsanto systematically works in opposition to this idea," would be an argument worth proving. He did not prove it. There was so much build-up into the arguments against GMO foods and Walmart but they were never clinched. I'm sure there are at least 200 pages worth of material if someone wanted to do an expose of all the different lawsuits Monsanto has been involved in over seed licensing. Who knows. Maybe Raj knew his audience only wanted enough information on each topic to be able to make a snarky internet comment on every news article on the internet.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    Patel's book contains some alarming and resonant chapter full of specific information about community-level outrages perpetrated in a calculating and anonymous way by big players in the food industry. Spotlighting the trauma caused by the food system is Patel's strength; exploring its history and discussing its alternatives, somewhat less so. The first 80 pages are a clear, graph-spattered introduction to the tactics that agricultural giants and powerful economies use to ensure that their produc Patel's book contains some alarming and resonant chapter full of specific information about community-level outrages perpetrated in a calculating and anonymous way by big players in the food industry. Spotlighting the trauma caused by the food system is Patel's strength; exploring its history and discussing its alternatives, somewhat less so. The first 80 pages are a clear, graph-spattered introduction to the tactics that agricultural giants and powerful economies use to ensure that their products sell for as much money as possible while their own food and material needs are taken care of for bottom dollar. Patel's discussions of GM crops, tariff ad subsidy manipulation and food aid help to clarify why Indian farmers kill themselves, why the WTO is protested so violently by many of the world's poorest farmers and why many communities face illusory and unhealthy food choices. But following chapters lose steam as Patel painstakingly details the psychology behind supermarket layout and attempts to offer the slow food movement as a spiritual ad philosophical beacon. The final chapter, "Chosen by Bunnies" (most of the chapters have lousy names and rubbishy epigrams abound) regains some of the books earlier power but on an unlikely subject. Patel's treatment of obesity suggests that "we might want to consider poor diets as a symptom of a systemic lack of control over our spaces and lives" rather than swallow offensive and inaccurate explanations brought about by "the politics and economics of blame." I will be reserving some of my knee-jerk harsh criticisms of very fat people because of this chapter. Readers of a more conservative bent may chafe at Patel's tone or scoff at his predictable exemplars (Kerala, local food co-ops); but there's a solid fifty plus pages of notes and references underscoring Patel's scholarship and he seems thorough enough to respect. In all, the book is a decent overview/starter course on the food-related causes most dear to progressive thinkers. I suspect most readers who reach the end of "Stuffed and Starved" will being reforming at least some of their judgments about diet, hunger, obesity and even justice.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brenton

    This is another one of those books that I had expected to really like, only to find it fairly disappointing. For starters, I really disliked Patel's citation style. Maybe it's a British thing, but he only used endnotes, even for somewhat useful asides. So I was never sure whether a reference note would send me to some interesting tidbit or just a citation. And those were bad, too, just an author name and year. So then you'd probably have to hunt through his references section to figure out what t This is another one of those books that I had expected to really like, only to find it fairly disappointing. For starters, I really disliked Patel's citation style. Maybe it's a British thing, but he only used endnotes, even for somewhat useful asides. So I was never sure whether a reference note would send me to some interesting tidbit or just a citation. And those were bad, too, just an author name and year. So then you'd probably have to hunt through his references section to figure out what the material cited was. It felt like a style for a dissertation, not a book that you're trying to appeal to a broad audience with. Patel's basic thesis is that the ills of our current food system - the fact that so many are starved, especially the rural poor and farmers, while others are stuffed - are a political problem, not a technical one. In the global market, the route between producers and consumers goes through a bottleneck of a very small number of middlemen (processors and the like) who can dominate the market. As such, technology-led "green revolutions" only serve to make farmers in the global South more dependent on large agricultural and chemical firms, since they have no market power to increase their share of food profits. It's a compelling argument that points toward political solutions that so far have been precluded from the public conversation, rather than largely cosmetic changes that continue to support the current system ("industrial organic," "corporate philanthropy," "Fair Trade"). Patel loses me, though, when he goes into screeds on far-left radical equality issues. These are the kinds of arguments that assume a completely idealized world and human nature, or preach a form of "illiberal egalitarianism" that gives a good talk about being inclusive while actively alienating middle-of-the-roaders. It just got way too ranty for my tastes, really. I think if you are looking for an intelligent read about the food system, you could probably find better. Patel has a much broader, international scope than other similar books I've read, but I don't think he'd be very engaging for someone who wasn't a die-hard food politics nerd.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Billy

    An absolutely fantastic, well-researched, and very readable book about the global food system. Raj Patel obviously has a strong bias against the policies of the WTO, international food distributors, and super stores like Wal-Mart, but his arguments against them seem very well founded. This book really opened my eyes to the systemic problems that help to keep farmers poor and suicidal, food distributors rich, and consumers overweight and obese. He also points to a number of possible solutions, in An absolutely fantastic, well-researched, and very readable book about the global food system. Raj Patel obviously has a strong bias against the policies of the WTO, international food distributors, and super stores like Wal-Mart, but his arguments against them seem very well founded. This book really opened my eyes to the systemic problems that help to keep farmers poor and suicidal, food distributors rich, and consumers overweight and obese. He also points to a number of possible solutions, including the slow-food movement, but admits that many of these options are only available to the wealthy. This book also does a great job of explaining the problems with genetically modified foods. I had never heard a good argument against them before that didn't make the arguer sound like a Luddite. Raj does a great job of showing how the GM foods create a system that is unsustainable both ecologically, by creating a monoculture of plant life, and economically by binding farmers to the seed companies like Monsanto that provide them with the ofter over-priced seed, fertilizers, and pesticides that allow their GM seeds to grow properly. Also, it was good to finally understand why apples taste horrible in the US now compared to when I was a kid. Breeding for longevity instead of flavor! My only exception to the book was Raj's arguments against the IT infrastructure that allows companies like Wal-Mart to support their supply chain. His arguments here just didn't seem to go anywhere and I have a hard time understanding what could be at fault with increasing the efficiency of a supply chain. I do understand why it is better to purchase locally, but this seems a separate issue. Overall, a highly recommended primer for people that want to have a better understanding of the problems with the food system today.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Tsai

    It's a great overview of how the current food system has created inequalities in wealth, health and produced a class of displaced, poor,unskilled people. It begins with the international perspective, looking at corporate control, trade/foreign aid and the World Bank/International Monetary Fund's influence in creating an agricultural system unfairly weighted towards the agribusiness biotech "solution" to address food security. Throughout, Patel recounts the stories of farmers and communities that It's a great overview of how the current food system has created inequalities in wealth, health and produced a class of displaced, poor,unskilled people. It begins with the international perspective, looking at corporate control, trade/foreign aid and the World Bank/International Monetary Fund's influence in creating an agricultural system unfairly weighted towards the agribusiness biotech "solution" to address food security. Throughout, Patel recounts the stories of farmers and communities that have been harmed by bad policy, but he also reveals stories of successful alternatives. Towards the end Patel touches on food safety issues within our industrial food system as well as how it's been tailored to reduce choice and promote a certain type of diet high in calories. Patel ends with a 10 point list of actions the public can take to oppose the corporately controlled food system. Much of the list are dogma among foodies, but Patel also calls for an economic model that addresses workers needs more than CEO's bottom line. The overall message of the book, I believe, is to create a more equitable food system through the idea of food sovereignty. An idea that puts the power of choice in food, diet and agriculture with communities and not corporations. Wish I would have read this book 5 years ago. I say it's a must read for people looking for an overview of the current food system. Since it is an overview there are a lot of subjects briefly explained. I wish this was a series of books digging deeper into each subject. One thing I'm taking away is a renewed interest in the Dillon and Kenedy round of GATT negotiations and the EU and US's partnership to monopolize the cereals and oilseed trade.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    This book makes a splendid introductory text to the evils of the modern food system. I can say that because it was my introduction and I feel well introduced. You may have suspected that there was something rotten about the modern alimentary chain and Raj Patel will tell you exactly what. It starts with the nifty premise that the world’s overfed and underfed have something in common: they’re both getting played by multinational food interests. It explores that connection from the top of the supp This book makes a splendid introductory text to the evils of the modern food system. I can say that because it was my introduction and I feel well introduced. You may have suspected that there was something rotten about the modern alimentary chain and Raj Patel will tell you exactly what. It starts with the nifty premise that the world’s overfed and underfed have something in common: they’re both getting played by multinational food interests. It explores that connection from the top of the supply chain on down, from the Brazilian soy tycoons whose goods find their way into almost everything we eat to the awful truth about high fructose corn syrup, fast food and the campaign to fatten us up kids at a gingerbread house. It even ends on a nice note, with a profile of the myriad small farmers organizations sprouting up around what Patel calls the “Global South” and providing a utopian-sounding alternative in the form of cooperative living and agriculture. While I found these passages particularly enlightening, they tinge the writing red in a way some readers, even lefties, are liable to find obnoxious. While thoroughly researched (the index and reference section occupies about a third of the book), the writing is also haphazard at parts, though you can’t find fault with Patel’s diction. It sounds rather like it was both written and edited in a frenzy to get it to press and little concern for the kind of awkward constructions, repetition and passive voice that reminds lazy writers like me that we’re not alone.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Jaffe

    I've been critical (by critical, I mean "annoyed by the USA-centric white middle class privilege") of many of the food-politics tomes out there, and the people who see buying a product as the way to solve the food crisis (yes, there is one). Raj Patel solves all those problems, and presents a brilliant and amazingly readable analysis of the economics of the food system, and the social movements that are fighting back. I got a copy from the library, but I'm going to have to buy it so it can rest o I've been critical (by critical, I mean "annoyed by the USA-centric white middle class privilege") of many of the food-politics tomes out there, and the people who see buying a product as the way to solve the food crisis (yes, there is one). Raj Patel solves all those problems, and presents a brilliant and amazingly readable analysis of the economics of the food system, and the social movements that are fighting back. I got a copy from the library, but I'm going to have to buy it so it can rest on my shelf next to Manufacturing Consent, The Shock Doctrine, and other things I refer to constantly. Did I mention that his writing is beautiful? I mean beautiful. I mean the man can make a sentence about food politics literally sexy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dawnbg

    I was really excited to read this book and had to wait months to get it from the library. I had seen the author interviewed on several TV programs & he was great. In short, this book is WAYYY too long.I've never thought about the book editor before, but while the info is good, it is repeated too much.If it was half the length it would be a much more powerful book.The book is about the global food system, and how government policy and large corporations have changed the way we eat, grow food and I was really excited to read this book and had to wait months to get it from the library. I had seen the author interviewed on several TV programs & he was great. In short, this book is WAYYY too long.I've never thought about the book editor before, but while the info is good, it is repeated too much.If it was half the length it would be a much more powerful book.The book is about the global food system, and how government policy and large corporations have changed the way we eat, grow food and shop. Read the "conclusions" chapter while having a cup of coffee at Powell's and you will get the info you need!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Powerful quite readable about the world food system and how fucked up it is, why there is so much soy and various other additives in our food, how Monsanto is a big bully, how CSAs are great and about the Via Campesina and other farmer movements that are fighting back. You wont want to eat some things after reading this though nor patronize WalMart, and you will think twice about the supermarket system!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Martinxo

    Didn't enjoy (odd word to use I know) this as much as I thought and ended up flipping quickly through the last two thirds. Patel tells me what I already know in grinding, depressing detail. But don't let that put you off, if you know little or nothing about the global food situtation then read this book, get a little depressed...then act.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey Lawson

    An incredibly detailed account of the global food system, I wanted to love this book but it fell victim to its own wordiness and lack of focus and style. How you write is still as important as about what you choose to write.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ansley

    Everyone should read this book, or at least the conclusion. Patel's most powerful line, regarding our food system: "We either own it by action or are implicated by indifference." Don't be indifferent!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    A dense (yet comprehensive) read about the hidden mechanisms that operate and control our global food network. Be prepared for a shock as Raj Patel intelligently deconstructs everything you think you know about food.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Feathers

    I want to say "white people's problems", but it's so much more.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Georgina

    yikes! very in depth read

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jenine Young

    this took a while for me to get into and read, but I'm glad I stuck it out. reminds me of the omnivore's dilemma in terms of volume of information, but this focused more on the global scale.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kriegslok

    At some point in his book Patel quotes Friedmen who commented that the “Hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist”. Most of this book is about exposing the lie of the market, as it is commonly supposed to be, and revealing the central role of the often not so hidden, if silken, fist. By looking at each stage of the chain of the production of our food and providing thorough case studies Patel paints a rather depressing picture of an industry that is not only bad for the st At some point in his book Patel quotes Friedmen who commented that the “Hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist”. Most of this book is about exposing the lie of the market, as it is commonly supposed to be, and revealing the central role of the often not so hidden, if silken, fist. By looking at each stage of the chain of the production of our food and providing thorough case studies Patel paints a rather depressing picture of an industry that is not only bad for the struggling producer and environment but for the consumer for whom “they” would have you believe they are working to get good food at the best prices. It probably does not take Patel to tell most of the people who read this book that there is something wrong with the way we eat. The people who perhaps should read this book won't and the people who perhaps shouldn't will and most will cynically do their best to alleviate any harm the book may do to their interests. That said it is a valuable work and one that draws together and reveals the food industry for the world system that it is. The role of corporate interests in bulldozing their way is clearly demonstrated by the closeness with which they have worked with the IMF, WTO and the way these organisation emerged on the back of post-war food distribution systems, primarily in the USA, to cope with a food production glut. Patel himself has worked for the World Bank and WTO and knows what he is talking about. He also looks at the struggle of the powerless to work in their own interests nationally and internationally against incredible odds and at a huge personal and physical cost. He documents the suicides of farmers broken by debt and records the hidden suffering of women’s labour that goes largely unseen and is cheaply rewarded. He also reiterates the important point that people do not starve to death because there is no food, they die because they cannot afford to buy the food they need to survive. While much of the book concentrates on what is wrong there are glimpses of hope and the Landless Rural Workers Movement in Brasil which has met with some success is covered in detail being one of the bigger and more successful grass-roots movements that has survived its formative years and clung to its principles while moving with the times. Patel also looks at India where the contrast between town and country could not be much greater or perhaps more potentially explosive. What is clear in all cases is the diposability of those who have traditionally worked the land – NAFTA forced 1.3 million Mexicans off their land. In the same way that the peasants were thrown off their land in Britain in one of the first serious modernisations of agricultural production and relations so the pattern is repeated globally today as capital continues its relentless expansion and expropriation of the commons and virgin territory in the search of profit. As long as profit and personal financial reward remain the strongest global motivator any change seems unlikely. As Patel notes “The creative destruction of modern capital, almost by definition, crushes those least able to protect themselves and whose contribution to society is priced low”. That something is seriously screwed with the way we eat is well illustrated by the Walmart story. Patel as well as doing a very good demolition job on the company notes that the company counts 80% of US citizens as customers and has made multi billionaires of the founders children. For me missing from the book is any serious coverage of the “meat” trade and its particularly devastating on animals, the environment, those who work in the industry and the health of those who consume its product. This however is a subject that has been well covered by any others elsewhere. Also missing is any real addressing of the population problem. I know a lot of people feel that population is unPC and not something that should be taken seriously however it is the elephant in the room and should be tackled for what it is rather than what reactionaries might try to make it. While Patel, I think probably rightly, is disparaging of supposed equalising projects like Fair Trade - “ethical hedonism for those able to afford it” - he is upbeat about the potential of those forced into a situation by the lack of any other choice to make change. This is highlighted by the success of the various landless movements at one end of the scale and by alternative state policies at the other. In this respect, while noting their faults, Patel highlights Cuba and the Indian state of Kerala both of which by pursuing people based policy have achieved impressive results in terms of wealth distribution, land ownership, food production and literacy. It is interesting to note the hysterical reaction such projects receive from those at the other end of the spectrum who truly feel the threat of such good examples. It is clear that where people are motivated to take an active part in their foods production, distribution and consumption generally the results are better for all including the environment. As Patel states “The food system […] creates poverty at the same time as it produces an abundance of food. It fosters hunger and disease through its mechanisms of production and distribution”. As long as the corporations control the politicians and institutions that make this possible little is likely to change globally but as Patel shows, locally people can and do struggle to show this is not the only way. A highly recommended and comprehensive read that will challenge any reader.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    I read this book a while ago and was impressed by its thorough - and often shocking - exploration of the many issues with the way our food is produced and sold. I didn't get around to writing up my notes on it at the time as it was so full of detailed examples that I found it hard to summarise. This paragraph from the book's conclusion does quite a good job though: "Unless you're a corporate food executive, the food system isn't working for you. Around the world, farmers and farmworkers are dy I read this book a while ago and was impressed by its thorough - and often shocking - exploration of the many issues with the way our food is produced and sold. I didn't get around to writing up my notes on it at the time as it was so full of detailed examples that I found it hard to summarise. This paragraph from the book's conclusion does quite a good job though: "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." I'd struggle to mention all of the points I found interesting in this book, but a few do stick in my mind, such as: • the 'hourglass' figures showing the bottleneck of power that is concentrated in the massive corporations that stand between food producers and consumers. • the stories of Indian farmers killing themselves by drinking pesticide after sinking into debt (and the claim that "in the UK, farming has the highest suicide rate of any profession") • the way that food is linked to international politics, for example the inclusion in World Bank loans of conditions relating to trade liberalisation and the dismantling of 'marketing boards' that protect local farmers • the flaws in products such as 'Golden Rice' which are claimed to help the poor (in this case through genetically engineered yellow rice containing vitamin A - which is considered undesirable in a culture that values white rice, and would need to be eaten in extreme quantities to give a benefit) • the chapter (uncomfortable reading for a vegetarian!) about the negative impacts of soybean farming in Brazil: huge soy plantations employing seasonal workers on low wages, perhaps even slaves, based on deforestation which displaces indigenous people and wildlife • the series of clocks showing the typical time spent preparing a meal in UK homes from 1934 (2.5 hours to cook a hot meal) to 2010 (8 minutes, perhaps to microwave something or order a takeaway) This book demands a bit of concentration but is full of interesting detail and makes a highly persuasive argument. Although the author does attempt to present positive examples of resistance and alternative models, I found it a rather bleak read. At the end he outlines a 10-point plan for individual and collective action to take back control of the food system, but this did little to lift my spirits as it seemed too challenging to be a realistic prospect, from the first point ("Transform our tastes", which is totally within our power but unlikely to be embraced by most of us) to the last ("Owning and providing restitution for the injustices of past and present", i.e. cancelling debts and providing restitution to exploited areas - a massively ambitious political project!).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Abhilasha Purwar

    My rating for the book reflects not "I did not like it" but rather "This book is incorrect, biased, partial, harmful, and PLEASE Read it with Caution" This book is Karl Marx "Left" fueled with radical extremist "the rich, global free trade, politicians, urban population, actually anyone who is not poor are out there to get poor" narrative delivered in a powerful Fox news style Laura Ingrahm, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson conspi-enraging language. It is gripping, it is blaming, it is partial inform My rating for the book reflects not "I did not like it" but rather "This book is incorrect, biased, partial, harmful, and PLEASE Read it with Caution" This book is Karl Marx "Left" fueled with radical extremist "the rich, global free trade, politicians, urban population, actually anyone who is not poor are out there to get poor" narrative delivered in a powerful Fox news style Laura Ingrahm, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson conspi-enraging language. It is gripping, it is blaming, it is partial information suited for one perspective layered on one sided facts. Everyone is a villain out there to get the poor, System is rigged, Poor have no choice. Global North wants a poor Global South. Damn ! NRA TV seems more moderate after reading this book. 10% of the book is facts pertaining to food system which are spot on, informative, and very important to highlight to global audience. But, the remaining explanation and interpretation of "why things are the way they are, and who is to be blamed, and what are the solutions" is all just pointing to EVIL THEM - the system, the corporations, the rich, the entrepreneur, and most of all free trade and capitalism. The blame game has merits in some places #bananawars #GMOinsanity #BiofuelsEnvironmentalism. The blame game is misplaced and partially informed in some. And in rest of the instances, it is just non-stop grudging slutshaming #NAFTA #WTO #IMF #StructuralAdjustemnts #EconomicLiberalization The book has so MANY logical fallacies and absolute absence of perspectives or FACTS that do not serve authors opinion. One simple example, Patel talks about ADM Lysine price fixing scandal where ADM was fined $100 million, and two executives were jailed for 3 years. In one single sentence Patel mentions that Mark Whitacre, the whistleblower who worked with FBI for 3 years was sentenced for 10 years. The reader is left to think how mean the justice system is and the guy who risked his life and collected evidence was punished unfairly. While author forgets to mention that Whitacre was involved in $9 million embezzlement scandal and was sentenced for that. #SmallDetailsMatter He talks about reduction in budget allocation of Public Distribution System in India (ration food for poor) but forgets to mention national rise in GDP and decline in poverty. He hates nations pegging their currency in global markets but forgets that the other scenario is Zimbabwe style hyper-inflation. I can go on FOREVER. Someone needs to PLEASE write a book taking same facts but informing the audience with a more moderate, reasonable, both sided, Pros and Cons arguments of the mess that is global food system. With such radical, partial, one-sided, and blame gaming narrative, the author does more harm than good to the cause of understanding and reforming the global food system.

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