Monday, April 07, 2008

Global Capitalism And The Corporate Food System: Raj Patel's "Stuffed and Starved"

The dust jacket describes Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World's Food System as a book written “in the style of No Logo”, Naomi Klein’s 2000 anticorporate manifesto, and so it is. And this is its strength and its weakness. I've written a brief review here.

What I found most useful about Raj Patel's overview is the clear sense he makes of of the weird hourglass shape the global capitalist food system has taken on, with so much money and power concentrated in the wholesale corporate bottleneck, which leaves the rest of us, the masses of producers and consumers, relegated to the margins. Patel should be congratulated for paying such close attention to the problem of food production, distribution and consumption, and you can keep an eye on his tracking of developments here.

It's the precariousness of the global food system that I find most worrisome. Not that there aren't lots of other things to worry about, but when the price of rice jumps by 30 per cent across Asia all of a sudden, you know something's wrong.

In this month's Vanity Fair, there's an investigation of some of the darker aspects of corporate monopoly control of food production, and the Institute for Food and Development Policy presents an interesting insight into the contradictions between "slow food" and "food sovereignty" here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

and now the eco-hysterics and Warmongers are turning food into fuel in a misbegotten effort to be green and the results are rising food prices, food riots and soon, starvation.

All in pursuit of Al Gore's vanity and need for a cause to punish the nation that rejected him.

Truly strange times we live in.

2:08 PM  
Blogger The Plump said...

Wow Fred. I suppose if it is all Al Gore's fault, it makes a change from blaming the Jews.







3:29 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Thanks, Plump One.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Graeme said...

There's a hop shortage at the moment as well, so expect beer prices to increase. The guy who runs my local homebrew supply shop was showing me a list of hops from one of his suppliers--around two thirds of the list was unavailable, and he was backordered for the rest. Rice is important and all, but things will get ugly if I can't afford to drink beer anymore.

2:45 PM  
Blogger kurt said...

And today's lead in the Guardian: "Vote Mugabe or you die" - Inside Zimbabwe the backlash begins...


9:00 AM  
Blogger Blazing Cat Fur said...

I spent a large part of the last year researching American firms. Agri-business in particular. The reach & scale of these conglomerates is frightening- as is the fact that power is concentrated in very few hands - many of the largest are closely held empires. You can feel if not see their unstated influence on both Democrats and Republicans. The illegal immigration debate will ultimately be settled on their terms as will the matter of gm foods. There was a time when US trust-busting legislation made those who decried Canada's levels of corporate concentration envious. Not so much now.

7:02 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

Blame Brussels.

Changes to the CAP are in process 2005 - 2012.

Old CAP was for EU taxpayers to subsidise maximum production and so ended up with a "mountain" of over-production. This was dumped at below cost prices on the world market - provided cheap food, but suppressed production by lowering prices paid to farmers in "non-protected" (read 3rd world) markets.

New CAP was forced by pressure on the EU to end the dumping. To do this the EU could have chosen to stop subsidising production costs and let farmers face market realities, but that would be political suicide. What they decided was to continue to subsidise, but cut production volumes.

New CAP is a replacement of production subsidy with an acrerage subsidy, for maintaining the land in a pleasing state. Limiting quotas for farms have been established that mandate a maximumm a farmer can produce.

In effect the current EU policy is to spend about 50bn euro per year with the specific aim of cutting its food production. Ironically as food prices increase (like now) it becomes possible for EU farmers to produce food for the world market at below market costs (no dumping), but they are not able to do so because this would be in violation of their Brussels imposed quota conditions.

7:13 PM  

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