“The Food Wars” is No “No Logo”

The blurb by Naomi Klein made me want to read this. I’m a big fan of “No Logo”, her shocksposé on the unethical practices in the third world of the leading consumer brands. I was expecting something akin to that book.

The Food Wars is not exactly like No Logo. No Logo, in some way, can appeal to the casual reader because of the wealth of human condition stories exposing the evils of globalization. Except for some stories about the peasant activists in the final chapter, The Food Wars is mired in figures, numbers and percentages that would probably make it daunting for the casual reader.

It’s written in a very academic fashion. Food crisis stories from Africa, China, the Philippines are written as case studies. Each chapter begins with a statement of the problem, progresses with LOTS of numbers, and percentages and wraps up with a neat conclusion at the end. The casual reader can actually get away with just reading the conclusions and still have a semblance of understanding as to what the book was about.

Buried within the numbers and the academese is a very frightening situationer of why the world is going hungry and possibly why it’s going to get worse. According to Bello, The root of the problem are the conditions behind the seemingly generous loans to third world countries. Behind these loans are “economic reengineering” conditions that stipulate that the country abandon agriculture for some “forward-economy” industry. Like call centers and BPOs (sound familiar)? Thus, because of these policies, government has to remove subsidies and tax breaks for farmers and reallocate them elsewhere. The rationale is that third world countries can earn more to buy “cheaper” food from first-world countries like the US. Unfortunately, this is not working according to the best-laid plans of the armchair economists in the World Bank. There is also an interesting chapter on BioFuels and their contribution to the global hunger problem. In a nutshell, corn and other grains are being allocated to feed fuel tanks than stomachs. Fuel is more profitable than food and thus a more lucrative product to produce than cheap food.

Books like these are meant to give the reader insight and maybe shock the the reader out of his comfortable reading chair. Insight, tons of em buried beneath facts and figures. Not enough shock of the lack of the human side of the problem. I’ d recommend watching the documentary “Food Inc.” as a companion to this book.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eKYyD14d_0&w=560&h=315]
There are a few issues in “The Food Wars” which are mentioned assuming the reader has sufficient background to understand what Bello is talking about (e.g. The on-going Monsanto GMO seed controversy in the US). This also fleshes out the problem for those wanting a human side of the story.

The book concludes with a call to action to go back to peasant agriculture. That is, for each locale to produce its own food to cut down costs on transportation and dependence on first-world producers. The world has to shift the power of production from the armchair policy makers and give it back to people who till the fields and harvest the crops. Maybe then, this hunger problem will be swept off the table.”

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