New Internationalist

Food and Faith

Issue 091

Hunger for Justice; the politics of food and faith
by Jack A. Nelson
Paperback £3.75 / $4.95
US: Orbis Books
UK: Supplied by Third World Publications

Hunger for Justice is the sort of book an educator looks for when eager converts ask what they can read to get a picture of how the food system in America works. It offers no striking new analyses, but it puts together in one book insights from a wide range of sources. The book focuses largely on the US and its role in the international marketplace. But those who live in countries whose economies are dominated by American multinationals will gain considerable insight into the obstacles they encounter in their own work towards self-reliance and a healthy agricultural sector.

Nelson places hunger in its context within the global food system. He leads his readers quickly through the effects of colonialism and neo-colonialism in underdeveloped countries and then traces the steps that made many countries dependent first on the American government’s largesse and then on its multinationals for jobs, wages, and consumer goods. Nelson puts it all together in a convenient form and relates it to Christian values.

The most unusual section of the book is his attempt to link American military and food policy as the twopronged cure for the problems of the post-Cold War economy. According to Nelson, American officials agreed their primary goals must involve increased sales of weapons abroad (a ‘permanent war economy’) and aggressive efforts to capture foreign markets for American agribusiness. If you accept Nelson’s reading of the damage done to the economies of both the US and the countries that become its markets, it would be difficult to retain romantic notions of a rapid transition to a new economic order.

Nelson’s own suggestion for a new social order is the weakest section of the book. To be fair, his solution is not outlined in detail. But its rallying slogan is self-reliance. And, unfortunately, the very real and troubling problems of corporate concentrations, oligopoly, and international dependency on transnationals are not even mentioned as forces that must be confronted.

This lack is particularly important because Nelson proposes a People’s Commission on Food, Land and Justice. Canadians, who have already been through such a commission, could point out that it allows people to speak their mind to each other and offers a good educational tool . But it scarcely challenges the power of corporate agribusiness and can be no more than a useful first step.

Bonnie Greene

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