Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"If you are a serious foodie, gardener, cook, or have a soft spot in your heart for farmers, animals, or even just relish the idea of a sun-warmed, fresh-picked tomato, this book is for you!" --Lynn

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch, but she also runs an organic family farm in Northern Virginia that provides healthy vegetables to over five hundred families in the Washington, D.C., area as part of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Despite this, as one of the nation’s leading healthy food advocates, Hauter believes that the local food movement is not enough to solve America’s food crisis and the public health debacle it has created. In Foodopoly, she takes aim at the real culprit: the massive consolidation and corporate control of food production, which prevents farmers from raising healthy crops and limits the choices that people can make in the grocery store.

Through meticulous research, Hauter presents a shocking account of how agricultural policy has been hijacked by lobbyists, driving out independent farmers and food processors in favor of the likes of Cargill, Tyson, Kraft, and ConAgra. She demonstrates how the impacts ripple far and wide, from economic stagnation in rural communities at home, to famines in poor countries overseas. In the end, Hauter illustrates how solving this crisis will require a complete structural shift, a grassroots movement to reshape our food system from seed to table—a change that is about politics, not just personal choice.

Lynn says:
"As both an operator of an organic farm with her husband in Virginia (not far from D.C.) as well as director of Food & Water Watch, Wenonah Hauter has an unusually broad perspective on the politics, sustainability, economics and healthiness of our increasingly globalized food system.  One can't help but be astonished in her new book, Foodopoly, by the lengths to which huge subsidies are employed for the most gargantuan factory farms, and laws are eviscerated or just ignored that originally were intended to protect the public and the environment from the very abuses that are being built right into our food system for the sake of astronomical profits for a handful of firms poised to control every aspect of food from seed to table around the globe.  As Dwayne Andreas, a former CEO of Archer Daniels Midland ('supermarket to the world') put it in Hauter's first chapter, 'There is not one grain of anything that is sold in the free market. Not one.  The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians.'

Woven throughout the book are stories of people grappling with the often devastating consequences of an agriculture focused solely on profits that illustrate the truth of that quote.  Among many others, you'll meet Felicia Nestor who works with USDA meat inspector whistleblowers, Dr. Robert Lawrence, whose activism is in the realm of combating antibiotic resistance (as a result of antibiotics misuse in industrialized animal production), the outspoken Mike Callicrate, blacklisted by monopolistic meatpackers for his advocacy for stronger enforcement of antitrust laws, and Valerie Ruddle, a poultry grower in West Virginia, who reveals a fairly serf-like arrangement between grower and the giant company that determines who sinks or swims in the business.  You'll also meet the likes of Monsanto, Cargill, Calgene, Tyson and Walmart, among other powerful corporate entities, who enjoy a wealth of benefits no mere person ever could, thanks to Citizen's United and a playing field that has been growing more and more tilted over the past decades.
Hauter's contribution to the literature about how the consolidation of megacorporations impact food justice, biotechnology risks, and the sustainability of community and ecosystem is informed by a wealth of experience navigating and investigating a complex system heavily tilted to favor what she calls 'a small cabal of companies [who] control every aspect of our food system.' You would think such an outlook would be unbearably depressing, but she presents just enough evidence of grassroots momentum for change to motivate and encourage the reader to find ways to be more conscientious and proactive about the path of food from seed to plate and to pay closer attention to how we might hold politician's feet to the fire when it comes to enabling or extinguishing the possibilities for small and midsize farmers to succeed and for communities to break free of the domination of the biggest players.

If you are a serious foodie, gardener, cook, or have a soft spot in your heart for farmers, animals, or even just relish the idea of a sun-warmed, fresh-picked tomato, this book is for you!" 

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