Book Review: Walden Bello’s The Food Wars

[BOOK REVIEW]

Take-aways from Prof. Walden Bello’s The Food Wars:

1. Structural adjustment and other neoliberal policies (privatization of state enterprises, market deregulation, reduction of trade barriers) ‘imposed’ by the IMF and the World Bank, supposedly to promote an efficient world market economy, has caused massive de-industrialization and de-peasantization in developing countries all over the globe.

2. Food security is a necessity of any independent nation-state. Deprivation of the proletariat and peasant classes and food crises grow rampant due to deprioritization of: an effective agrarian reform program, government subsidy for support services (e.g. agricultural research, irrigation, fertilizer), and farm modernization. Farms should not be compromised for a global economy, not to be dominated by landlords with government ties, not to be rented out to foreign corporations, and not to be recklessly transformed to “more efficient” land uses. Perhaps the doctrinaire neoliberal economics promoted by free trade entities should re-strategize according to these manifesting consequences.

3. The growing agrofuel industry (biodiesel and fuel from corn, palm oil, sugarcane) add to: the food crisis (lower crop supply thus higher prices), environmental damage (conversion of rich biodiversity forests to biofuel plantations), labor exploitation (of indigenous people and poor farmers in the countryside), failure of local land reform (as land is converted to modes unshareable by law), more than the climate change benefits it provides as an alternative renewable energy source to fossil fuels. And with speculative capitalist giants already controlling the agrofuel market, and local governments and international organizations already setting the targets for required agrofuel production and use, the damage the industry causes to the marginalized sectors is unstoppable.

4. Monoculture large-scale industrial farming (including the Green Revolution and biotechnology) has large consequences beyond its high productivity as it forsakes food production in the name of profit, away from agricultural enrichment, and towards those with market power. More than its claims of efficiency, the costs of industrial agriculture outweighs the benefits in terms of chemical pollution, soil and genetic erosion, carbon emission, and displacement of wealth.

5. The book suggests a movement towards small-scale peasant farming, food self-sufficiency, deglobalization (at least in food production), rights of farmers to determine patterns of agricultural production (not based on market directives), farming averse from chemical-intensive technology, and prevention of environmental destabilization, health hazards, and low-quality products that are by-products of the growing capitalist industrial agriculture.

6. Prof. Walden Bello should have won as senator. He is a true intellectual-agitator. His material can move people towards social change, convincingly, in an academic way.

 

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