Raj Patel’s Stuffed and Starved analyzes the paradoxical content in its title statement. Patel demonstrates how the world food system has created two opposite, but inherently linked epidemics: obesity and crippling hunger. Throughout the course of this book, it becomes painfully clear that the majority of the world’s population is being manipulated by our global food system and by the corporations and their CEO’s who control it. Patel encourages his readers to make themselves politically responsible (313) and through Stuffed and Starved, highlights the discrepancies and major imbalances of our world food system, the small percentage of people who benefit from it, and the vast majority of humanity who does not. He does all this while pointing out they we are starving not only physically, but also politically and socially. And Patel encourages his readers to get hungry, but in the right way.
In the Introduction, Patel outlines some of the major issues he addresses in the ten chapters of his book. The most important of them being: the abundance of food in the world vs. the starvation that is evident in countries such as India and Mexico, reduced prices on crops and how farmers compensate by working harder and producing more, and how the number of people involved in the food economy is gargantuan compared to the number of people who actually make decisions and control what happens in our global food system.
Patel’s first two chapters focus on international trade agreements. He argues that free trade may not have any real benefits when weighed against the drawbacks it causes, specifically, the inescapable poverty and the sense of hopelessness it establishes for farmers. A large focus of Patel’s book is on the very high, and still rising rate of farmer suicides. The small farmers are being driven out of business, and they are losing their lands, which are considered to be a symbol of pride for these people. Patel talks about how it is a bottleneck system, with the food corporations having a centralized control over the purchase, conveyance, and sale of food. NAFTA and other free trade agreements are also mentioned. Patel concludes that these systems favor the consumers rather than the producers. He uses Mexican corn as an example. The price of corn in the Mexican market collapsed due to U.S imports. The U.S corn farmers were significantly subsidized by their government, and the poor Mexican farmers had no way to compete. Patel accuses America of using its economic and political power to strong-arm Mexico and other countries under the guise of free trade agreements. With all of the evidence Patel presents on this topic, any reader would have a difficult time disagreeing with this assertion.
Patel makes food out to be a bargaining chip, a good that can be used to control nations and suppress rebellions. He may not be so far off the mark. Food was used in U.S negotiations during the...