In addition to numberous scholarly publications in economics, philosophy, politics and public health journals, he regularly writes for The Guardian and has contributed to the LA Times , NYTimes. He is currently working on a documentary about the global food system with award-winning director Steve James. Explain why the apparent choices that supermarkets present us with—whether it be varieties of apples, brands of cereal, or kinds of coffee—are not really our own.
If the food we find there is not dictated by the consumer, the seasons, our locations or by the full range of foods, fruits, and vegetables available, explain how corporations the ones to be in control?
When children grow up malnourished, they have a greater risk of obesity when they become adults because their bodies metabolize and store food poorly. Can you suggest some solutions for this problem? What are some questions we could be asking if we want to be informed consumers?
Explain how the laws of supply and demand work for coffee growers like Lawrence Seguya, a coffee-grower in Uganda. Who is at the top? Who is at the bottom? How does the system work in terms of the concentration of power for the players involved? What are some of the ways that farmers and consumers are fighting back? How are these terrible tragedies of the working poor and the struggles of women being written out of the story of poverty?
According to Patel, what are some reasons why inequality might continue to be a major problem in India? What were the international and domestic worries about food surpluses in the US? Would you say that it was successful or not?
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This became known as the era of the petrodollar. But later in the s the world plunged into recession, commodity prices collapsed wiping out the major sources of foreign earnings for many governments of the global South. Still locked into economic dependency, most African economies relied on the export of one or two primary products. By the mids, for example, two-thirds of exports from Ghana and Chad were coffee and cotton respectively, while the fall in copper prices meant that by Zambia, which depended on copper for half of its GDP, received no income from its most important resource. Regions already marginal to international capitalism were further marginalized.
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Massive areas of the world were thrown into bankruptcy. Crisis for the economies of the global South was an opportunity for new actors on the world stage. International financial institutions IFIs were developed to control and regulate the economies of the South.
Stuffed & Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World Food System by Raj Patel
The most important of these institutions had been founded at the end of the Second World War. The World Bank was reshaped, issuing loans from the early s to Southern governments when few others would. So now loans were granted by the World Bank to repay interest on debts accumulated in the s. All this in the name of the free market. Now, in theory at least, these countries could be reorganized to export crops and minerals at even greater rates to earn US dollars to repay old loans.
In little more than a decade a new food system had been built. The instruments of global food management that had been held together since by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade GATT no longer had cohesive power.
Stuffed And Starved: Markets, Power And The Hidden Battle For The World Food System
A series of negotiations were launched with GATT members in and these launched what became known as the Uruguay round of talks. In the World Trade Organization was founded absorbing the remit of GATT, but also, crucially, a number of new domains — intellectual property, services, textiles and included a mechanism for dispute resolution that GATT had been missing. New agreements were equally unfair, so agricultural supports continued in the form of subsidies in the developed world, while the global South was compelled to hand over these rights.
The cost of these policies was carried by the poor. Areas of the world which were already exposed to the fluctuations of global commodity prices were hit particularly hard. Chronic malnutrition became a stable feature of Africa. In in Zambia, in Southern Africa, chronic malnutrition stunting between the ages of six and fifty-nine months was 39 per cent, while in the United Nations Development Program reported that in the Southern African region 20 per cent of children under five were underweight.
Economic devastation in the s left Africans consuming 25 per cent less then they had in the s and spending less on education and social services than at any time since independence. Hunger is hardwired into the system of debt and structural adjustment. Patel gives many examples. Take Malawi in Here the International Monetary Fund insisted that the government cut its grain reserves from , to 30, metric tons — based on the logic of cost cutting. Better people die than the market be bucked.
Mass malnutrition and famine have been the direct corollary of the reshaped global food industry. These corporations have seen their share of world food trade grow massively under the new rules. Much of this concentration is a relatively recent phenomenon that has led directly to higher prices for consumers.
Though the giants of agribusiness compete against one another they are happy to join other players in the food game — up and down the distribution, pesticide and processing chain. So food giant Cargill has partnered with Monsanto, sharing its logistical and processing expertise with an organization that specializes in pesticides and seeds. While Patel tells of the despair that the reconfigured food system has wrought on peasant farmers and rural communities around the world — suicide rates, for example, in one area of rural southern India was 58 per , for men and per , for women — he also speaks of resistance.
Over the last thirty years Brazil has seen the massive expropriation of land as a result of the restructuring of global food production.
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Out of this resistance, some of the landless have transformed themselves and established democratic forms of self-rule. The media explains that these prices rises are caused by the expansion of biofuels and the finite supply of oil — this is, largely, nonsense. Huge amounts of capital, measured in the tens of trillions, have been moved by speculators and investors from the sub-prime cash-cow that recently imploded to other commodities, principally food and oil.
This has had the effect of driving up prices. Many of those involved are familiar to us.
Though there is competition between the billionaires investing in food, there is, crucially, collaboration that furthers their combined interests.
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