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The End of Food

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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,116 ratings  ·  147 reviews
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 truth—how we make, market, and transport our food is no longer compatible with the billions of consumers the system ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 6th 2009 by Mariner Books (first published March 21st 2008)
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Books Ring Mah Bell
Oct 30, 2008 Books Ring Mah Bell rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people that like to eat
Shelves: non-fiction
Eating. A simple pleasure we take for granted. Well, not anymore thanks to this book.

In treating food as a commodity, we have opened a Pandora's box of sorts. Our global food economy is literally on the brink of disaster. Disaster that can not only cause our food prices to rise, but cause thousands more to starve and die.

Never happen in the year 2008, you say? According to the scientists, that scenario is very possible. As the pressure to increase production and profit continues, we rely on tec
...more
Andrew
A very good book, better written than many. It would have more power if the author wasn't making a career out of "The end of ___" as titles for books. It forces him to make things seem more dire than they are, and when things ACTUALLY ARE quite dire, his authority is easier to question. b/c he’s cultivated a livelihood writing about doomsday scenarios, he’s hard to read objectively.

but there is a LOT of good info and research in this book. HE makes the good point that for all the concern about t
...more
Matthew
The End of Food offers a deeper look at the global food system than any previous book I have read. At times it reminded me of Confessions of an Economic Hitman and The Omnivore's Dilemma combined into one. Mixing solid writing with a behind the scenes look at the geo-political systems that control our food, Paul Roberts describes the harsh reality of the food system being pushed to the edge. With detailed citations and succinct analysis, Roberts fills in the details where The Omnivore's Dile ...more
Sarah
This was tricky to rate. The information was well-presented and very important, but this was not a book I "liked". It was a book that made me think, and worry, and question-- but it was dry at times and relied a lot on "what-if" situations. Roberts carefully navigated the boundary of shock reporting and delivered a fairly balanced view of current and future food supply issues. You will be terrified, angry, sad and maybe a little grossed-out, but you should read this book.
Nikki
As you'll see from my recent reading lists, I've been reading several books on food and sustainability. By the time I got around to The End of Food, much of the information in it seemed very familiar, given that I've also spent some of my reading time during each of the past several years on the subject. In fact, I more or less skimmed the book, since it needed to go back to the library. But I would recommend it to someone who is just getting started on this subject. Perhaps you saw the document ...more
Paula Alexa
Far easier to read than The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World since the sheer amount of raw information in that book made enjoying it extremely hard, from my point of view, The End of Food is one of the books that may be life changing.
Firstly,it explores food from all perspectives: historically, from the hunter tribes to the food industry nowadays, economically,with a focus on the US food industry, ecologically (or morally), touching the sensitive subject of GMOs and animal right
...more
W.J. Gunning
This book is a must read for all who eat. Paul Roberts shows clearly how the modern food economy is no longer safe for the billions it feeds. The historical and political context that has resulted in this current situation are explained. The book was first published in 2008 when the current studies by Seralini and Thai researchers which clearly show the relationship of glyphosate, GMO's and human cancers were not available. Both these studies however add further weight to the conclusions of thi ...more
Holly Booms Walsh
This is a scary look at the current and future consequences of modern food production and the global market. The footnotes take up fourty pages in themselves. This author has read and digested and documented everythign there is out there on the current statistics, problems, and trends in food production. He discusses disease, land overuse, global trade, food production methods and dangers, genetic engineering, marketing that promotes over-processing of foodstuffs, and just about every other aspe ...more
Laura
In this lucid yet expansive tome, Paul Roberts probes all the ills and externalities pushing our global food system to the brink of collapse. The pressure to constantly reduce the bottom line in industrial food production has generated unprecedented risks: environmental degredation from exhaustive water, pesticide and fertilizer use, the rise of food-borne illnesses (hits home during this current swine flu epidemic), and an increasingly obsese First World while sub-Saharan Africa can't get enoug ...more
Mondo
Every human on the planet should read this book, and Savor by Thich Nhat Hanh. These two books, if read and comprehended by every person, would change our world. Really. They should be required reading for a healthier planet...heck...just so we HAVE a planet!
The Fat Astronaut
This is an excellent book for anyone who is curious about the advantages and shortcomings of our present day food system. Roberts really did his research when writing this book. The book includes narratives from people involved in the food production industry from all parts of the world including; France, Japan, Kenya, Canada, China and the US. Roberts paints a grim picture of today's industrial food system. Explained in the book in detail is how subsidies by various governments undercut and oft ...more
Audrey Anne
This book started out strong, but its focus kept broadening. This had the effect of dilluting my attention. It does contain some very important information and it does attempt to be comprehensive, but comes off dense and disorganized. About 3/4 of the way through I found, like other readers, I had to take it in short spurts of a few pages at a time. Also, I found a few arguments where my point of view departs from that of the author, so I can't take the book as a wholesale truth. For instance, I ...more
Deirdre
Not as entertaining or as engaging as Michael Pollan or Joanna Blythman this is an interesting, if Amero-centric, look at food and the food industry as it stands and it's race to the bottom.

This was an interesting book to read while Ireland had another food crisis, where industrial grade (read cheap) oil was added to pig feed (loaded with dioxins), potentially causing a lot of problems for purchasers, producers and farmers. Much of this type of thing was discussed in this book and some of the i
...more
Auggy
This is one of the best food-related books I've read in a while. Packed with tons of facts about a huge range of food-related topics, this book somehow still managed to be an easy-reading page-turner.

It looks at the current food system - how produce and animals are treated as a commodity with the highest concern being expense, not nutrition or safety - and delves into how that affects the world. Everything from grain prices, international trade, world hunger, pandemics and consumer health are di
...more
Ren
Brilliantly composed, this is factual history of the food industry leading to a poignant theory for a future revolution in food science and consumption. a must read if you plan on feeding your mouth regardless of what side you're on!
Bonnie
This is disturbing on so many levels! It's very well researched and very well written and makes me want to start my own farm. Certainly a must read for anyone who shops at a grocery store or eats out--which is pretty much everyone.
Nicholas Decker
Overall it wasn't a bad book, but it's certainly much longer (and longer winded) than it really needed to be. They could have easily filtered out a lot material that was not very interesting, but somewhat redundant and even irrelevant at times.

My other complaint was in the way the material was presented. The author does us a service by presenting multiple sides of an argument, but sometimes in a very negative fashion. For example, the book describes how some generally accepted beneficial practic
...more
Marri

Roberts is generally fair in the weighing of pros and cons with each facet of the food system -- and the alternative models that propose to replace it. Just as one raises a mental objection, Roberts seems to address it in the next paragraph. Such moderation is difficult to find in many discussions of food politics, and readers on both ends of the spectrum of argument about what should be done to feed the planet will be able to find pertinent perspectives from the other side relayed clearly in a
...more
Erin
I found this book to be a drier, more statistics driven Michael Pollan book. It contains some very good information and some absolutely startling statistics. Unfortunately, I would have liked it more if I felt like it wasn't so dire and gloomy. For every positive food trend (organic, local/slow, heritage) Roberts had a long list of reasons why this particular food trend wasn't going to help anything, and might even make things worse in some places for some people. I finished this book feeling li ...more
Dawn
Most people do not think about food security, meaning the balance of what and how food gets from the producer to the grocery store to your home. Mr. Roberts explains that while we have become accustomed to a food industry which efficiently delivers food we have chosen this with a cost that is not sustainable. We are causing more problems with just in time food delivery as well as negatively influencing farmers lifestyles when they miss a deadline or loose their crop to natural causes. At the sam ...more
Ilya
Modern food industry (American, but not just) is hyper-efficient in producing cheap food. However, it is efficient in the same sense that a car without a catalytic converter is more efficient than a car with one: with lots of negative externalities. Modern agriculture uses a lot of synthetic fertilizers, which are washed down into rivers, find their way into the Gulf of Mexico, where algae bloom, which depletes water of dissolved oxygen, which creates a 20,000 square kilometer zone where all hig ...more
Bertv23
Dense, dry, redundant.
However,
Thoughts/Interesting bits:
-Check out the Sierra Club's "The True Cost of Food" website
-I think a food chem class would be very cool
-"Neither organic farming nor any of the other alternatives...can by themselves hope to address the coming 'food problem'. What is becoming clearer by the week is that the food challenges of the future - a rising population, degrading soils, declining quantities of energy and water, climatic instability, and a host of food-related heal
...more
Samj
Very similar to Schlosser in Fast Food Nation, Roberts is very heavy on the facts. This book is over 300 pages of hard to digest facts which point out the obvious flaws in the food industry. By having so many facts in his book there is a blatant disregard for the reader. He doesn't take into account that there are over three hundred pages and through out them he berates the food industry for all of its flaws. An industry that is under the weight of a nation that is at three hundred million and g ...more
Pauline
"The End of Food" by Paul Roberts is an informative book about the global food market. Paul Roberts definitely did his work when it came to researching this book. Evidence of the research is found in the large "Notes" section in the back of the book.

This book made me think about where exactly the food on my table comes from and if it really is as safe to eat as I think it is. Fear and a bit of anxiety over the safety of my food is a side effect from reading this book.

The book does contain a numb
...more
Ben
Without outright stating what diet would be a better option, my own conclusion after reading this book is that it is the most convincing evidence for vegetarianism. One piece of evidence talked about in this book is that it takes 100 tons of water to grow 1 ton of grain. If 20 lbs of grain is required to make 1 lb. of a cow, or 9 lbs. of grain to make 1 lb. of beef, it takes at least 900 lbs (900/6 = 150 gallons) of water to get a pound of beef. If irrigation is only 60% efficient, that's 60 gal ...more
Danny
To boil down my opinion to a blurb: This book is a bit too technical to be so sensationalist...

But of course, this is unfair to a book that is so exhaustively researched and in many ways well-presented for a reader that is not afraid to wade through a bit of technical writing. I would be more likely to recommend The Omnivore's Dilemma or In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, or Plan B 3.0 by Lester Brown to most of my friends simply due to the comparative ease of reading those books and their si
...more
Ashley
This was a great book. The author introduced a new way of looking at sustainable food systems. I really appreciated his stance on the locavore's view of sustainability. Food miles aren't necessarily the most important thing to consider when making food choices. The author questions what will do more damage to the earth: the carbon emissions produced when transporting organic food to the US, or the ill-effects that pesticide residues and synthethic fertilizers will create by purchasing more local ...more
Joel Tone
Don’t read it. I can sum it up in one word: DOOM.

This book explores the current system of food production as it has moved from the western world and is currently moving into the developing world. As food has become more available, food production has become more specialized and more cutthroat. Profit margins keep getting cut all along the chain so that it becomes necessary to produce more volume of higher value products which leads to pushing the system well past its tolerances for safety and su
...more
Lori
This book should be required reading for all of humanity. In it, Paul Roberts discusses our crumbling food systems and economies. He thoroughly covers the history of our food systems, their current state, and where they are headed in the near future if our current eating habits continue. Roberts fills every chapter, with well-researched, easy to read narrative that encourages the reader to rethink food habits. He covers everything from food processing, the onset of fertilizer in agriculture, obe ...more
Leah
"The End of Food" is one of the more comprehensive books released in the past couple of years that explores the intricacies of the global food economy. Personally, this was a fitting follow-up for me, having recently read Dmitry Orlov's "Reinventing Collapse," T. Colin Campbell's "The China Study" and Michael Pollan's "In Defence of Food." These works cover a kaleidoscope of issues, including peak oil, sustainability, foreign policy, 'Western' diseases, nutrition and - literally - what to eat.

Ro
...more
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How did we get here?? 1 16 Jul 07, 2009 09:48AM  
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  • Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty
  • Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America (California Studies in Food and Culture, 8)
  • Swindled: From Poison Sweets to Counterfeit Coffee—The Dark History of the Food Cheats
  • The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Corruption, and the Control of the World's Food Supply
  • Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It
  • Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms
  • The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved: Inside America's Underground Food Movements
  • Food Politics
  • The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health
  • Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly
  • Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, and Fair
  • Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating
  • Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness
  • Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
  • Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back
  • Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto--The Promises and Perils of the Biotech Harvest
8529933
I'm a journalist and author of three books, most recently, The Impulse Society: America in an Age of Instant Gratification. My work focuses on the evolving relationship between the marketplace and the Self and touches on issues ranging from technology obsessions to the politics of narcissism. Earlier works have explored the energy economy and the food industry. I live with my family in Washington ...more
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The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification

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“In California, the state's huge dairy herd produces twenty-seven million tons of manure a year, the particulates and vapors from which have helped to make air quality in the argiculturally intensive San Joaquin Valley worse than it is Los Angeles.” 2 likes
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