According to the gospel of corporate globalization, only large-scale farming methods can feed the world. Well, just as the real-estate mess burst one capitalist bubble, so The Food Wars shows that another has already exploded. Agribusiness and supermarkets control an unprecedented extent of the food chain, yet hunger and food prices have soared. Filipino activist-academic Walden Bello traces the causes of today’s food crisis back to the World Bank’s strategy of structural adjustment, which was applied to around 90 countries in the South. Small farmers and local producers were marginalized as export-orientated food production was promoted and foreign corporations privileged. The result: loss of food security in many parts of the South.
Bello’s is a convincing critique. The alternatives he proposes centre on the notion of food sovereignty – prioritizing local food production, harnessing new technology and meshing it with traditional knowledge. Exactly how this can be elevated from a local and regional alternative to a global one is less clear. Bello seems to assume that all countries can and should be self-sufficient in food production, as if they all had an equal capacity and land fertility. Nonetheless, The Food Wars is a valuable contribution to the urgent debate on how to thwart further Tesco-ization of the world and land-grabbing from small producers. If we don’t move in this direction, food riots – such as those that erupted in Egypt and Haiti – will surely escalate into food wars.