Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment

Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment

Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment

Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment

Synopsis

Millions go hungry every year in both poor and rich nations, yet hundreds of thousands of peasants and farmers continue to be pushed off the land. Applied in increasing volumes, chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers deplete the soil, pollute our food and water, and leave crops more vulnerable to pest outbreaks. The new and expanding use of genetically engineered seeds threatens species diversity.

This penetrating set of essays explains why corporate agribusiness is a rising threat to farmers, the environment, and consumers. Ranging in subject from the politics of hunger to the new agricultural biotechnologies, and in time and place from early modern Europe to contemporary Cuba, the contributions to Hungry for Profit examine the changes underway in world agriculture today and point the way toward organic, sustainable solutions to problems of food supply.

Excerpt

Ellen Meiksins Wood

One of the most well established conventions of Western culture is the association of capitalism with cities. Capitalism is supposed to have been born and bred in the city. But more than that, the implication is that any city—with its characteristic practices of trade and commerce—is by its very nature potentially capitalist from the start, and only extraneous obstacles have stood in the way of any urban civilization giving rise to capitalism. Only the wrong religion, the wrong kind of state, or any kind of ideological, political, or cultural fetters tying the hands of urban classes, have prevented capitalism from springing up anywhere and everywhere, since time immemorial—or at least since technology has permitted the production of adequate surpluses.

What accounts for the development of capitalism in the West, according to this view, is the unique autonomy of its cities and of their quintessential class, the burghers or bourgeois. in other words, capitalism emerged in the West less because of what was present than because of what was absent: constraints on urban economic practices. in those conditions, it took only a more or less natural expansion of trade to trigger the development of capitalism to its full maturity. All that was needed was a quantitative growth, which occurred almost inevitably with the passage of time (in some versions, of course, helped along but not originally caused, by the Protestant Ethic).

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