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The Political Economy Of Food (For Starters),
This review is from: The Food Wars (Paperback)
Director of Focus on the Global South and professor of Sociology at the University of the Philippines, Walden Bello has written an excellent introduction on the international politics of food. Written just after the rocketing food prices of 2006 to 2008 he identifies the roots of the crisis in the "free" trade agreements and Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP's) that have destroyed third world food sovereignty under a barrage of subsidised exports from the 1st world, destruction of government support for domestic agriculture in the 3rd world, orientating agriculture away from fulfilling domestic demand to that of export markets, the sundering of the peasantry and rural population from the land when the main alternative is life in the burgeoning third world slums, with little prospect of paid work.
Bello also looks at one of the most popular books on the subject, Peter Collier's The Bottom Billion, which is characterised as being the orthodox approach. Collier identifies the causes of the food crisis as (i) rising prosperity in China and India, (ii) governments being lacklustre in their support of commercial farming in Africa, (iii) the failure to make use of GM crops, and (iv) the growing consumption of agricultural land and produce by the bio-fuels industry. Bello is sceptical about the effect of the first point, on the second and third he is deeply critical. Only the last point is deemed to have had an effect on the price of food, and is regarded by Bello as a worrying development that has a potential to have disastrous effects if it continues it's growth.
The main body of the text is taking up with case studies that illustrate how the issues mentioned in the first paragraph have affected different countries (China, Mexico and the Philippines) as well as African agriculture in general. He also examines the bio-fuel industry, the relationship between peasants and capitalism as well as a number of examples of peasant resistance including the inspirational Via Campesina (Peasants Way).
"The Food Wars" is an excellent, and succinct introduction to the international politics of food that asks questions of the orthodox solutions for the food crisis (Agri-business, food aid, "free" trade), and offers an alternative based on food sovereignty, deglobalisation and privileging peasants over vast corporate food interests.