FOOD FIRST: Beyond the Myth of Scarcity by Frances Moore; Joseph Collins & Cary Fowler Lappe
Kirkus Star

FOOD FIRST: Beyond the Myth of Scarcity

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Everyone could be adequately fed, contend the authors of this broad, blistering critique, if food were produced for people and not for profit. Posing, first, the most obvious question--""Aren't there already too many people in relation to our food and agricultural land base?""--they cite four available means of raising production. The productivity of the land can be increased in many places (an acre may be ""capable of feeding five people or one,"" depending on the human input); land can be used to feed people rather than livestock; food can be raised for local consumption in place of luxury crops for export; unused land--the largest holdings--can be put under cultivation. All this is put forth by page sixteen, indicative of how efficiently the authors till their own ground. The remaining 400 pages, in essence, spell out the base and the implications of those few, deceptively simple contentions. Lappe et al. attribute to colonialism, for instance, the practice of ""cash cropping for export and squeezing the majority of farmers onto erosion-prone lands"" (though the exploitative pattern goes back at least to the Roman Empire) and describe just how the process goes on today--intensified by multinational agribusiness under the encouragement of cash-hungry poor countries. Neither do they ignore the United States where, they charge, commodity prices were rigged by the Nixon administration to expand agricultural export earnings--and small farmers not squeezed out are losing their independence: if you grow spinach in Crystal City, Texas, you have to sell to Del Monte. The Global Farm supplies the Global Supermarket--with expensively processed and advertised food. The US is too consistently the culprit, perhaps, China and Cuba too often lauded for the good of the cause (why not small-farm, high-yield Holland or Denmark, for instance). The argument stands, however: land redistribution, diversified production, satisfying domestic needs before foreign demand all deserve a chance before anyone whispers triage.

Pub Date: July 22nd, 1977
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin