Concentration, Consolidation, and Control: How Big Business Dominates the Food System
Foodopoly, a meticulously researched book by Wenonah Hauter, is primarily a case study focused on a single country that traces the historical and political changes that have transformed the food system. The book highlights how business and political elites have altered regulatory and business institutions to create the conditions whereby large food conglomerates can operate unfettered, and with the aid of a government seemingly interested in serving business over public interests. Inevitably, as has happened in so many other countries, and as detailed in Foodopoly, the result of this shift to a globalized food system has had many detrimental impacts. These now all-too-familiar negative consequences of globalization include farmers being driven off their land, exploitation of workers in factories with dismal working conditions, environmental degradation due to weakening laws and limited enforcement, and questionable food safety and animal welfare practices. However, what grabs one's attention in Foodopoly is that this case study is not based on a small, developing nation, but rather on the United States of America, the bastion of capitalism and champion of globalization. Foodopoly effectively points out that the United States is not immune to the negative impacts of globalization and sounds the alarm that the health and sustainability of the country's food system are under threat.It is clear from the beginning of the book what Hauter's position is on the current food system. She believes that consolidation and concentration has undermined food policy, fostered an unsafe and unsustainable production and distribution system, and led to the demise of the family farm. The body of the book is a riveting account of how business and political forces combined to use their power to reshape the food system to favor a few corporate elites at the expense of both the social and physical environments. The final chapters suggest a way forward, but lack the intensity of the main narrative. For although Hauter correctly asserts that change needs to happen at the policy level, the reader is left wondering what role she or he can play to effect the required policy reforms....
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