Food Rebellions! brings together masses of case studies, research, facts and statistics to look at what lies behind the recent food crisis that sent prices soaring in 2007. It also asks how we can end the food insecurity and hunger that continue to plague millions around the world.
The book’s starting point is that hunger results from the way that food is produced under capitalism. It rightly points out that 2008 saw both record hunger and record global harvests. Hunger doesn’t reflect food shortages.
The book takes all the familiar common sense explanations for the food crisis – such as rising meat consumption in poorer countries – to pieces. It argues that rocketing prices had many immediate triggers, including the increasing use of biofuels, and speculation. But it points out that the root cause of the crisis is “a skewed global food system that has made poor people everywhere highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shock”.
The case studies combine to give a vivid picture of how the food industry impacts differently in different places – in Ghana, Mexico, India, China, Haiti, the Philippines and the US. You get a real sense of what this means for ordinary people.
Eric Holt-Gimenez and Raj Patel use these case studies to show how so-called “solutions” to hunger, such as food aid, international trade agreements and genetically modified crops, have failed.
They put a good argument against technical fixes, such as recent proposals for a new Green Revolution. They don’t simply dismiss such fixes but engage in detail with the debate.
The authors are refreshingly focused on ordinary people – both as activists and as people developing different ways of producing food in the here and now.
However, the authors hold up small farms as a solution. I would argue that this is a backward-looking solution and that the real problem is the production of food for profit, not the size of individual farms.
Nonetheless, the book’s main argument is that ending hunger will require “restructuring the ways we produce, process, distribute and consume our food” which has to be underpinned by the mass of people having democratic control.
The authors point to the ideological crisis that is engulfing capitalism and argue that this gives us an opportunity to go on the offensive and push for radical alternatives that put food production in the hands of the people.
This book is a helpful tool to use in that offensive.
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A pick of the highlights