We have been subjected to decades of economic manipulation
by a group of conglomerates that profit at the expense of our bellies.
Monopolistic corporations are controlling the market,
world food production and food processing.
TRAFFICKERS IN FOOD
We are seeing the calculated destruction of small farms.
Onerous health regulations have already driven large numbers of
small poultry and livestock growers out of business in Canada,
and there have been threats to create similar regulations
that will affect local vegetable and fruit and grain growers
in the name of biosecurity.
book review of STUFFED AND STARVED:
MARKETS, POWER AND THE BATTLE FOR THE WORLD'S FOOD SYSTEM
(the conglomerates are profiting at the expense of our bellies)
by Raj Patel, Harper Collins
Transnational corporations have a stranglehold on what we eat
(and governments are complicit)
by Brian Brett, Vancouver Sun, Mar 8, 2008
By now, almost everyone is aware that we are unwilling participants in the greatest nutritional experiment in history. The story of our species is the story of our diet. "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are," the great gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, but he had no idea what would happen to food 100 years after he wrote those words.
Raj Patel's book, Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Battle for the World's Food System documents the economic path that led to this dangerous development. Today, 40 per cent of our diet is supplied by vast transnational corporations and complex trade systems difficult to track and trace, as we are discovering with the problematic foods coming out of China.
We have no idea of all the dangers in our diet, but symptoms such as cancer and obesity are surfacing in our bodies, as well as in toxic environmental zones created by chemicals used in food production. For instance, there's a "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico caused by runoff from the Mississippi River. It varies in size from 13,000 to 18,000 square kilometres, almost the size of New Jersey. Agricultural runoff spawns a deadly oxygen-eating bacterium that kills every living creature in this zone, only one of many created in the oceans around the world by modern agricultural practices. Salinization is also threatening once ideal farmland, and water tables are dropping.
Rachel Carson, in Silent Spring, first called attention to the dangers of pesticides and long after her death remains the subject of vituperation and distortions from mouthpieces for the pesticide industries. Recent classics such as Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser, The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, and its follow-up, In Defense of Food, have alerted the public to the dangers of modern food. Although Stuffed and Starved is flawed, it provides a stunning overview of the food economy. Others may have trumpeted the dangers of our diet, but no one has examined so thoroughly the politics of the transnationals and the trade agreements that have guided the food supply in the toxic direction in which it is moving.
Patel, an Oxford-educated fellow at the Institute for Food and Development Policy in Oakland, Calif., is also good at pointing out forgotten details, such as how the notorious United Fruit Company of "banana republic" fame, once called el pulpo (the octopus) by Latin American farmers, has rebranded itself as the innocent and popular Chiquita. In a way that recalls No Logo, Naomi Klein's study of globalization, Patel paints a scary and accurate picture of the industry that's creating the starvation cycles of Africa and India and the obesity plague in the poverty-stricken ghettos of America. Unfortunately, Patel doesn't have the discipline of Klein or Schlosser or Pollan. He confuses issues and wanders into anecdotal digressions that divert from his case, rather than illustrating it. He also has a tendency toward needless polemic when his facts provide more than enough evidence. However, when he sticks to his subject and what he's best at -- statistics and the economics of food markets -- this book is so horrifying that some of the passages would be enough to turn even Conrad Black into a flaming pink-shirted communist.
What Patel makes clear is that we have been subjected to decades of economic manipulation by a group of conglomerates that profit at the expense of our bellies. Every day we are bombarded with propaganda about the "free market," whereas Stuffed and Starved makes it clear that monopolistic corporations are controlling the market, world food production and food processing. When he outlines the impact of the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement, the very design of the grocery stores we shop in becomes a blueprint for a horror story in which the monsters are documented on the labels we ignore on packages. As Michael Pollan has noted, foods with fewer ingredients on their labels tend to be better for you, though not always. Modern eating is definitely a buyer-beware business.
Patel shines when he gives the numbers that back this up. For example, he points out that of the 28 breakfast cereals designed for children in Britain, 27 contain more than the government recommendation for sugar in one serving and nine are 40 per cent sugar. The tragedy of diet has become so pathetic that when the British chef Jamie Oliver began his campaign to bring real, healthy food into schools, mothers were caught smuggling chocolate bars to their kids for fear they wouldn't have anything to eat.
Patel also explains clearly the systematic dismantling of traditional agriculture in Third World countries and how this has given rise to famine cycles during what CEOs like to call market corrections. In the name of the increasingly toxic agricultural treadmill known as the green revolution, they trade coffee futures or make bets on whatever monoculture they have inflicted on these nations.
Take wheat. Six transnational corporations control 70 per cent of the world trade in wheat. And what is our federal government attempting to do? Break the back of the farmer-controlled Canadian Wheat Board, which will lead to a few years of profit before the transnationals take over the "free market." What many people don't realize is how deep goes the unholy alliance between transnationals and governments -- including their agriculture and health ministries. Some suspect graft, but that's not the case. It's even worse. It's an alliance of attitudes.
The people at Monsanto, and at agriculture and health ministries, are all culturally conditioned to believe that food is a product, that chemically fertilized, pesticide-soaked monoculture or a slaughterhouse processing 6,000 pigs a day is good for you, easy to monitor and capable of feeding the world, unlike those small farmers with their pesky chickens and their cattle and lettuce growing unsafely out in the open air -- though it's not they who have 143 million pounds of potentially contaminated meat recalled in one order.
This is why we are seeing the calculated destruction of small farms. Onerous health regulations have already driven large numbers of small poultry and livestock growers out of business in Canada, and there have been threats to create similar regulations that will affect local vegetable and fruit and grain growers in the name of biosecurity. A classic case is Saltspring Island lamb, the most desired lamb in the world, served to the Queen and our prime ministers, sought by presidents and gourmands. The new slaughterhouse regulations have systematically crushed the small lamb farms that were once a thriving small industry. Now you can drive the island's roads and barely see a lamb. This took only three years of regulatory threats. British Columbia's health and agricultural bureaucrats call it a transition, but it's a transition to near-extinction.
What they are actually doing is creating disease vectors, reducing the nutritional value of food, degrading the environment, creating famine in the Third World and the obesity epidemic, skewing our diet so much that sometimes the stuffed and the starved live side by side in a strange world where 800 million people go hungry and a billion are overweight.
Trafficking in food (Transnational corporations have a stranglehold on what we eat and governments are complicit). Vancouver Sun, Mar 8, 2008
Privatisation of Seeds Moving Apace. InterPress Service. Feb 21, 2008. Go to GATES PLANTING STERILE SEEDS
TAKE NOT OUR DAILY BREAD and WEATHER-FOOD-WATER-AIR CONTROL and ANTI-NATURE IS ANTI-GOD and WORLD FOOD BANK
15.Life In Oceania and 9.Keeping Masses Down
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~