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Stuffed And Starved: Markets, Power And The Hidden Battle For The World Food System

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,312 ratings  ·  210 reviews

It’s a perverse fact of modern life: There are more starving people in the world than ever before, while there are also more people who are overweight.

To find out how we got to this point and what we can do about it, Raj Patel launched a comprehensive investigation into the global food network. It took him from the colossal supermarkets of California to India’s wrecked

Hardcover, 448 pages
Published January 13th 2007 by Portobello Books Ltd (first published 2007)
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May 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Saying: READ THIS BOOK! is the most logical place to begin this review. Seriously. Read it.

This is an incredibly nuanced look at the global food market. He addresses everything from rural poverty, failure, and farmer suicide (in the Global North and Global South) to the bottlenecks in our global food chain (mostly at the distributor and retailer level, where distributors are increasingly the same people as the retailers) to supermarkets to worker's rights and movements to obesity to monoculture
Jan 31, 2009 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book! I really wanted to read it to the last page without skimming. The subject matter is fascinating to me--the food politics of the US and the rest of the world. It seem that Patel and I have a lot of similar opinions about many things, such as the WTO, NAFTA, and the UN. However, we do not agree on why we do not like them. However, what he suggests to do about it is nearly the opposite of what I would do, policy-wise. I was also a bit turned off by the extent of h ...more
When I first saw this book in our local bookstore, I was interested in its purported claim to trace the intricacies in the power structure surrounding global food production/distribution. As a broad primer about the different ways in which campesinos growing soy in Brazil, Koreans fighting against the WTO, rural South Africans growing Bt cotton, etc. relate to the Global North's food acquisition and lack of satisfactory distribution, Stuffed generally succeeds. There is no shortage of vignettes ...more
Feb 09, 2009 rated it liked it
This book differs from other food politics books I've read in that it addresses the issues from a much more global perspective. I learned a lot about peasant/farmer movements, and really found that first part of the book pretty engaging. Things start to fall apart, however, when Patel starts to move into urban US issues, health issues, slow food movement, etc. These parts of the book aren't very well developed, and by the end I started to wonder if the author didn't feel like he had to have an o ...more
Dec 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, justice
The public understanding of where our food comes from is deeply misinformed, rooted more in a pastoral myth than in reality. The real story of our supermarket shelves is complex, but in Stuffed and Starved Raj Patel expertly guides the reader through the systems of modern food production to reveal the profound injustice ingrained in their structure.

We enter this narrative with stories of farmer suicides, a rising trend in the global south as more and more farmers find themselves in inescapable d
Feb 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been aware of and fascinated by a modern paradox for a while. For the first time in human history, a growing number of people are obese and suffering a form of malnutrition. By eating a diet composed mostly of empty calories, people will gain weight but still practically starve. Raj Patel explores this phenomenon in Stuffed and Starved. Patel is a British Indian educated at the London School of Economics and as his blurb put it, has been tear gassed on four continents.

There are more people
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is another one of those books that I had expected to really like, only to find it fairly disappointing.

For starters, I really disliked Patel's citation style. Maybe it's a British thing, but he only used endnotes, even for somewhat useful asides. So I was never sure whether a reference note would send me to some interesting tidbit or just a citation. And those were bad, too, just an author name and year. So then you'd probably have to hunt through his references section to figure out what t
Apr 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hope this book gets widely read, it's couldn't be more timely, and cuts through a lot of bullshit without cutting any corners on the way to its powerful conclusions.

Will post a link to review when I write one, in the meantime, I have to post this paragraph on Haiti, as I've been thinking a lot about my brothers and sisters there:

p.87 “Just as workers in Europe and the US resisted the poverty of life in new cities’ slums, so did the slaves whose labour kept food prices low for the white working
Eric Wood
Jan 27, 2013 rated it liked it
FIRST REVIEW! It only seems fitting that my first review for Goodreads is on a book given to me by my friend who not only introduced me to Goodreads, she has inspired me to seriously step up my reading game!

Stuffed & Starved has information that is vital to understanding the complexities, contradictions, and injustices of our world’s food system. Raj Patel has the credentials and has done the research to provide a compelling story that covers (1) how the system is controlled and “shaped by farmi
Lauren Kors
May 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Very dry, slow read. If you have no knowledge of the topic of how we got to where we are with the food industry I could see this being a very informative read.
Nov 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book about the global food system, corporate agribusiness giants, and how all this has shaped the things we eat every day (in really fundamental ways). Did you know that there are tons of species of apples that you will never get to eat, just because they don't grow well, or preserve well, or have tough enough skins, or generally have attributes that make them ideal for storing, preserving, and shipping long distances? There were lots of interesting factoids like this in the boo ...more
Jan 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Starts out with a tantalizing overview of agriculture but devolves by the last chapter into a hash of statistics about anything from bulimia to diabetes with a smattering of anecdotes about French cheese thrown in for good measure. I can think of about 15 things Raj could have chosen from to focus on instead of trying to write a book about everything without giving anything the attention to detail that it deserves. Considerable time is devoted to describing the soy industry in Brazil, so that pa ...more
Jun 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Patel's book contains some alarming and resonant chapter full of specific information about community-level outrages perpetrated in a calculating and anonymous way by big players in the food industry. Spotlighting the trauma caused by the food system is Patel's strength; exploring its history and discussing its alternatives, somewhat less so. The first 80 pages are a clear, graph-spattered introduction to the tactics that agricultural giants and powerful economies use to ensure that their produc ...more
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely fantastic, well-researched, and very readable book about the global food system. Raj Patel obviously has a strong bias against the policies of the WTO, international food distributors, and super stores like Wal-Mart, but his arguments against them seem very well founded. This book really opened my eyes to the systemic problems that help to keep farmers poor and suicidal, food distributors rich, and consumers overweight and obese. He also points to a number of possible solutions, in ...more
Patrick Tsai
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's a great overview of how the current food system has created inequalities in wealth, health and produced a class of displaced, poor,unskilled people. It begins with the international perspective, looking at corporate control, trade/foreign aid and the World Bank/International Monetary Fund's influence in creating an agricultural system unfairly weighted towards the agribusiness biotech "solution" to address food security. Throughout, Patel recounts the stories of farmers and communities that ...more
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book makes a splendid introductory text to the evils of the modern food system. I can say that because it was my introduction and I feel well introduced. You may have suspected that there was something rotten about the modern alimentary chain and Raj Patel will tell you exactly what. It starts with the nifty premise that the world’s overfed and underfed have something in common: they’re both getting played by multinational food interests. It explores that connection from the top of the supp ...more
Sarah Jaffe
Nov 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: labor-research
I've been critical (by critical, I mean "annoyed by the USA-centric white middle class privilege") of many of the food-politics tomes out there, and the people who see buying a product as the way to solve the food crisis (yes, there is one).

Raj Patel solves all those problems, and presents a brilliant and amazingly readable analysis of the economics of the food system, and the social movements that are fighting back. I got a copy from the library, but I'm going to have to buy it so it can rest o
Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
I was really excited to read this book and had to wait months to get it from the library. I had seen the author interviewed on several TV programs & he was great.
In short, this book is WAYYY too long.I've never thought about the book editor before, but while the info is good, it is repeated too much.If it was half the length it would be a much more powerful book.The book is about the global food system, and how government policy and large corporations have changed the way we eat, grow food and
Sep 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Powerful quite readable about the world food system and how fucked up it is, why there is so much soy and various other additives in our food, how Monsanto is a big bully, how CSAs are great and about the Via Campesina and other farmer movements that are fighting back. You wont want to eat some things after reading this though nor patronize WalMart, and you will think twice about the supermarket system!
Didn't enjoy (odd word to use I know) this as much as I thought and ended up flipping quickly through the last two thirds.

Patel tells me what I already know in grinding, depressing detail. But don't let that put you off, if you know little or nothing about the global food situtation then read this book, get a little depressed...then act.
Geoffrey Lawson
May 09, 2009 rated it liked it
An incredibly detailed account of the global food system, I wanted to love this book but it fell victim to its own wordiness and lack of focus and style. How you write is still as important as about what you choose to write.
Sep 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book, or at least the conclusion.

Patel's most powerful line, regarding our food system: "We either own it by action or are implicated by indifference."

Don't be indifferent!
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dense (yet comprehensive) read about the hidden mechanisms that operate and control our global food network. Be prepared for a shock as Raj Patel intelligently deconstructs everything you think you know about food.
Ruth Feathers
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I want to say "white people's problems", but it's so much more. ...more
Oct 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
yikes! very in depth read
Jenine Young
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food, nonfiction
this took a while for me to get into and read, but I'm glad I stuck it out.
reminds me of the omnivore's dilemma in terms of volume of information, but this focused more on the global scale.
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At some point in his book Patel quotes Friedmen who commented that the “Hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist”. Most of this book is about exposing the lie of the market, as it is commonly supposed to be, and revealing the central role of the often not so hidden, if silken, fist. By looking at each stage of the chain of the production of our food and providing thorough case studies Patel paints a rather depressing picture of an industry that is not only bad for the st ...more
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Caleigh Campbell
Oct 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An incredible book that eloquently summarizes the major problems of our global food system. If you eat, you should read this book.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book a while ago and was impressed by its thorough - and often shocking - exploration of the many issues with the way our food is produced and sold. I didn't get around to writing up my notes on it at the time as it was so full of detailed examples that I found it hard to summarise. This paragraph from the book's conclusion does quite a good job though:
"Unless you're a corporate food executive, the food system isn't working for you. Around the world, farmers and farmworkers are dy
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Raj Patel has worked for the World Bank and WTO and been tear-gassed on four continents protesting against them. Writer, activist, and academic, he is currently a Research Professor at the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

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