Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Currently reading

I picked up Stuffed And Starved by Raj Patel while browsing at St. Mark's Bookshop the other evening, surprised I hadn't heard of it until then. It's an in-depth look at the global food economy, and how corporations and governments have worked together in creating our highly profitable but volatile and totally unsustainable worldwide network of producers, distributors, and consumers.

It's been so eye-opening already: as early as the 1940s, US food aid has been used to shape political policy overseas, ensuring the political pliability of countries who become dependent on this aid. Patel also examines the growing phenomenon of farmer suicides, and looks at activist movements in countries like South Korea and Mexico that have grown up in response to "free market" farm policies whose implementation threatens small farming. This quote, from South Korean legislator and activist Kang Ki Kap about the WTO, is beautiful and its truth applies to so much about our current economic climate (italics mine):
The most essential things for human beings are the elements - sun, air, water and food. These are the essential resources for people's lives. God decided that these things would be the enjoyment of all, so that all might live. He does not intend that we monopolize the elements - yet because they're so abundant, people treat them as trivial, do not take them seriously. The trend, the wind behind the WTO, is the globalization of the capitalist system. The fundamental contradiction is the polarization of the rich and poor, with the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer. Some might say that this is the natural logic of competition. But if you're a human being with reason and conscience, then the WTO should be eliminated. Especially the agricultural sector and market pressures. To live, people need to eat. You cannot commercialize this. It's such an anti-human behavior, not just anti-social, but anti-people.

Patel posts at the interesting Stuffed & Starved website as well. I think the next book in my Global Food Crisis Reading List will be The End Of Food by Paul Roberts - I've heard a lot about it.

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