Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know

Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know

Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know

Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know

Synopsis

The politics of food is changing fast. In rich countries, obesity is now a more serious problem than hunger. Consumers once satisfied with cheap and convenient food now want food that is also safe, nutritious, fresh, and grown by local farmers using fewer chemicals. Heavily subsidized and underregulated commercial farmers are facing stronger push back from environmentalists and consumer activists, and food companies are under the microscope. Meanwhile, agricultural success in Asia has spurred income growth and dietary enrichment, but agricultural failure in Africa has left one-third of all citizens undernourished - and the international markets that link these diverse regions together are subject to sudden disruption. Food Politics carefully examines and explains the most important issues on today's global food landscape, including international food prices, famines, chronic hunger, the Malthusian race between food production and population growth, international food aid, "green revolution" farming, obesity, farm subsidies and trade, agriculture and the environment, agribusiness, supermarkets, food safety, fast food, slow food, organic food, local food, and genetically engineered food. Politics in each of these areas has become polarized over the past decade by conflicting claims and accusations from advocates on all sides. Paarlberg's book maps this contested terrain, challenging myths and critiquing more than a few of today's fashionable beliefs about farming and food. For those ready to have their thinking about food politics informed and also challenged, this is the book to read.

Excerpt

When it comes to food, everybody is interested. Humorist Will Rogers opened his routine by saying, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” In my own life, I have never met a person who did not like food, either growing it, preparing it, tasting it, or in many cases, arguing about it. We all have strong opinions about food, just as we do about politics. Food issues that become political are thus doubly divisive.

For this reason, I hesitated when asked by Oxford University Press to write a book describing “what everyone needs to know” about food politics. For each issue I would cover, a number of readers with views opposed to my own would be offended. Food politics can be a realm of irreconcilable difference. For each issue, there would also be specialists better informed than I, ready to notice even the smallest error. With each topic covered, then, I would be angering one group of readers while revealing my limitations to the other.

What persuaded me to write this book was press coverage of the so-called world food crisis of 2008. When international food prices spiked upward sharply in the spring of that year, I was struck by the different stories told. Journalists reported that the world was running out of food. Environmentalists . . .

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