A prominent food journalist follows the trail from Big Pizza to square tomatoes to exploding food prices to Wall Street, trying figure out why we can't all have healthy, delicious, affordable food
In 2008, farmers grew enough to feed twice the world's population, yet more people starved than ever before—and most of them were farmers. In Bet the Farm, food writer Kaufman sets out to discover the connection between the global food system and why the food on our tables is getting less healthy and less delicious even as the the world's biggest food companies and food scientists say things are better than ever. To unravel this riddle, he moves down the supply chain like a detective solving a mystery, revealing a force at work that is larger than Monsanto, McDonalds or any of the other commonly cited culprits—and far more shocking.
Kaufman's recent cover story for Harper's, ""The Food Bubble,"" provoked controversy throughout the food world, and led to appearances on the NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, Fox Business News, Democracy Now, and Bloomberg TV, along with features on National Public Radio and the BBC World Service.
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Praise for Bet the Farm
"Kaufman makes a convincing and terrifying case that the same merchant bankers who destroyed our housing market—and economy—five years ago are at it again. This time their target is the world's food supply."
—Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland
"Frederick Kaufman's great skill as a writer is to know when to be an ing??nue and when an outraged critic in his journey through the international food system. In going toe-to-toe with everything from a runaway pizza machine to Bill Gates, he goes to the heart of a complex world and shares why you should be angry. That makes this the best kind of journalism—one from which no one emerges unscathed, nor any reader finishes unmoved."
—Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved
"In Bet the Farm, Frederick Kaufman connects the dots between the food commodity markets and world hunger. Kaufman is a wonderfully entertaining writer, able to make the most arcane details of such matters as wheat futures crystal clear. Readers will be alternately amused and appalled by his accounts of relief agencies and the interventions of rich nations. This book is a must-read for anyone who cares about feeding the hungry in today's globalized food marketplace. It's on the reading list for my NYU classes."
—Marion Nestle, author of Why Calories Count and Food Politics
"'Eating is an agricultural act,' as Wendell Berry said, but Frederick Kaufman shows, undeniably, that it is an economic act as well. Bet the Farm describes a global food system that has made food and money indecipherable, where what we eat is determined not by the seasons, but by the ebb and flow of market forces. It's a compelling portrait of a system on the edge of crisis, and a necessary call for change."
—Dan Barber, chef, author, and activist
"Since time immemorial, the most important human question has been 'What (if anything) is for dinner?' This book explains how that question is being answered (badly) for our planet right now—the forces that are driving us to human and ecological despair."
—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
"This is more than a book about food. It's a book about how to revise our usual ways of thinking."
—Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
"This story should have been on the front page of the New York Times."
—Jami Floyd, Political Analyst, MSNBC
In the last half decade, the world has seen two devastating spikes in the price of food, and a third may be on the way. In 2008 and 2010, farmers gathered record wheat harvests, yet more people starved than ever before—and most of them were farmers. How is that possible?
In Bet the Farm, Harper's magazine contributing editor Frederick Kaufman investigates the hidden connection between global food and global finance by asking the simple question: Why can't delicious, inexpensive, and healthy food be available to everyone on Earth?
You will find his discoveries shocking.
Like a detective intent on solving a mystery, Kaufman travels from the corporate headquarters of Domino's Pizza and Tyson Foods to Walmart's sustainability research center, to mega-farms and organic farms and numerous genetic modification laboratories. Kaufman goes to Rome to the meeting of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and finally ends up on Wall Street and the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he discovers the answer to the riddle. His investigation reveals that money pouring into the global derivatives market in grain futures is having astonishing consequences that reach far beyond your dinner table, including the Arab Spring, bankrupt farmers, starving masses, and armies of scientists creating new GMO foods with U.S. marketing and shipping needs in mind instead of global nutrition.
Our food is getting less healthy, less delicious, and more expensive even as the world's biggest food companies and food scientists say things are better than ever and that the rest of us should leave it to them to feed the world. Readers of Bet the Farm will glimpse the power behind global food and understand what truly supports the system that has brought mass misery to our planet.
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