Food (PRS - Polity Resources series) Paperback – 25 Nov 2011
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"In this admirably clear exposition Clapp explains the increasing ′financialisation′ of and speculation in food commodities. Will sub–prime eaters be blamed for some future market crash? It makes you think twice about a second breakfast."
"Clapp explains in a clear and concise way that food is not only a simple source of nourishment, but it also represents a political issue that connects us all. Definitely a good guide for anyone who is trying to orientate themselves in the economic global jumble."
"In an increasingly complex argument that Clapp does well to unmuddy, she shows how the development of the world food economy is not the full picture – hers is a story that needs to be heard."
"Clapp does a fantastic job in opening up a space herself to act upon global injustices in the world food economy by shortening the mental distance that exists between us, food consumers, and the social, economic and ecological relationships associated with the food we eat."
Global Policy Journal
"An outstanding and accessible book for courses in food politics, globalization, economics, or international relations."
Agriculture and Human Values
"Clapp draws from her vast knowledge of economics, politics, and the environment to write insightfully about the events that contributed to the development of the world food economy."
Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures
"Clapp′s work provides a concise, accessible analysis of the complex system that surrounds one of the most basic of necessities yet offers sufficient depth to actas an introductory text for those who wish to further understandthe food system."
Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development
"Clapp′s concise, accessible prose, and her deep engagement with the subject matter should ensure that this book enjoys a readership well beyond the academy."
Organization and Environment
"An excellent diagnostic about the constitution, evolution and the challenges of the global food system, making it indispensible for development practitioners, policy makers, social movements, academics interested in learning about the emerging field of food studies, as well as all those who would like to understand (and eventually transform) the distribution of power in the food system."
Journal of International Development
"The new must–read primer for those trying to make sense of the suddenly turbulent world of drought and food shortages, price spikes and financial crises, biofuels and commodity index funds, food riots, and social unrest."
Review of Policy Research
"A relevant and current text that creates a great common platform from which to jump to explore community governance of the food system."
"A fascinating glimpse inside the food machine."
Cost Sector Catering
"Covering the most salient features of the global food economy in just a couple of hundred pages is a pretty daunting task, but it is one which Jennifer Clapp manages to achieve ... A finely detailed and well researched volume."
"A sharp, concise and satisfyingly detailed field–guide to the hegemons of the world food economy."
Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing
"Jennifer Clapp explains what happens when food is no longer considered a mere source of nourishment or cultural element but is transformed into a fungible commodity. Clapp unpacks and clarifies the mind–numbing complexities of transnational corporations, international trade, and financial markets. Best of all, the book provides precisely the information and tools advocates need to redesign the global food economy to promote fair trade, food justice, and food sovereignty."
Marion Nestle, New York University
"This excellent book explains why food has become a hot political issue on the global stage. The author clearly knows her subject and offers an insightful, engaging, and highly accessible introduction to the global food economy."
Robert Falkner, London School of Economics and Political Science
About the Author
Jennifer Clapp is professor and CIGI Chair in global environmental governance in the Department of Environment and Resource Studies and the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo.
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Jennifer Clapp's writing is unemotional and academic in tone (with a few somewhat grating neologisms and malapropisms) , presenting competing arguments about the merits or otherwise of developments such as the "Green revolution" in post-war agriculture, and the growing power of the private sector in food standards regulation. She outlines the benefits as well as the pitfalls of the current world food economy. The book's writing was perhaps prompted by the sharp world-wide food price rises of 2008 and subsequent price volatility, with developments as late as early 2011 covered to some extent. Clapp contests the claim that price rises were mostly driven by market fundamentals and makes a strong case that the deregulation of futures trading in agricultural products played an important role.
The author tries to give a global overview rather than focusing on any one part of the world, but the power and size of US agriculture means that US policy developments are emphasised, though Clapp largely concentrates on the world-wide rather than the domestic impact of US policy. European policies are treated similarly. For example, the CAP and the reforms to it are looked at through the prism of the effect of subsidised exports on developing countries' own agricultural production.
The book seems to be well-researched, with extensive references to sources provided in the notes and bibliography, though I noticed at least one lapse - Clapp points out that just four firms control almost 50% of the UK grocery market, but lists Safeway as one of these firms. There may perhaps be other places where the author has failed to take account of recent developments - for instance there is no discussion of the role played by food prices in the "Arab Spring" uprisings last year.
Although this is a short book, and much of the material will perhaps be somewhat familiar to the reader who takes an interest in issues such as Fair Trade or development, I felt I learned a lot through reading it, and the writer describes some recent developments, such as the huge increase in foreign ownership of land by TNCs and sovereign wealth funds, of which I was unaware. This is certainly a useful primer for anyone interested in the politics of food, and as someone involved in both a community garden project and a Transition Town initiative I shall certainly be recommending it to friends and colleagues.
Clapp's short account (200 pages including substantial index) also explores alternative approaches to food production and distribution, including food co-ops, fairtrade, and local provision/distribution/consumption, but frustratingly fails to indicate what potential impact these initiatives may have on the existing heavily manipulated and distorting system with which we currently live. Food riots are already increasing across the globe, as price rises are artificially magnified by the current structure, but Clapp disappointingly fails to offer proposed solutions to this.
As a review of the current position, this is a reasonable account, although I find Clapp's writing style dryly academic compared to the companion volume 'Fish' in the same series. Fish (PRS - Polity Resources series) However, I was disappointed that she felt unable to assess the feasibility of alternatives, given the current discredited model is increasing the plight of food poverty throughout the globe.
It is a difficult challenge to fit the wide scope of the topic into a small and readable book but the author successfully achieves this task making an enjoyable and interesting read which had me engrossed. With text backed up by data from sources such as FAO the author presents an informative view on the complexities, challenges and opportunities within the world food economy. The book also provides information on further selected readings if readers are interested in certain aspects and wish to delve deeper into a certain topic.
The overall theme of the book is all too familiar and depressing - the rich have all the power and control and the poor just have to deal with it. It is easy to see how we can have a serious food crisis with an unbalanced approach to trade rules and the export markets. The transnational corporations chapter was particularly interesting and I was surprised to learn that so few companies control so much of the market share. Particularly worrying in the context of price setting and lobbying. Essentially we are all puppets and a few big companies pull the strings!
I have to say that I preferred the Fish book, however that may have just been a personal opinion. I thought this one was a bit heavier to read and did not have the same flow as the Fish book. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a "behind the scenes" look at the world food economy. It has been written for the general public and you do not need to have a political or economic al background to understand the contents.