Salmonella-tainted tomatoes, riots, and skyrocketing prices are only the latest in a series of food-related crises that have illuminated the failures of the modern food system. In The End of Food, Paul Roberts investigates this system and presents a startling truthhow we make, market, and transport our food is no longer compatible with the billions of consumers the system was built to serve.
The emergence of large-scale and efficient food production forever changed our relationship with food and ultimately left a vulnerable and paradoxical system in place. High-volume factory systems create new risks for food-borne illness; high-yield crops generate grain, produce, and meat of declining nutritional quality; and while nearly a billion people are overweight, roughly as many people are starving.
In this vivid narrative, Roberts presents clear, stark visions of the future and helps us prepare to make the necessary decisions to survive the demise of food production as we know it.
This potentially interesting investigation into the challenges of global food production and distribution is marred by the burial of its argument at the end of the book. Beneath a history of food (old news to any reader of Michael Pollan), factoid avalanches and future-tense fretting, Roberts (The End of Oil) makes a familiar plea for rethinking food systems. When the author illustrates his points with actual players, the narrative becomes affecting and memorable: a French meat packer shows how retail powerhouses dictate prices; a Kenyan farmer demonstrates how "hunger-ending" technologies are often poorly suited to the climates, soils and infrastructures in malnourished regions. Unfortunately, these anecdotes are overshadowed by colorless recitations of Internet research and data culled from interviews. Roberts worries about our "vast and overworked [food] system" and proffers the usual solutions: eat less (land-based) meat, farm more fish, support regional (not just local) agriculture and pressure food policy makers to fund research into more sustainable farming methods (including genetic modification). Despite the undeniable urgency of the issue, Roberts's arguments are as commonplace as his prescriptions. (June 4)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.