5 Books on Global Food Systems

From Colin Sage's Environment and Food to Michael Carolan's The Real Cost of Cheap Food, here are a handful of new food books from the fall season that are worth checking out

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It's the fall book season and the food books are pouring in. Here are five good ones, so recent that some have 2012 publication dates.

Michael Carolan, The Real Cost of Cheap Food, Earthscan 2011: The chapter titles, all of which start with Cheap Food, tell the story: Globalization and Development, Conflict, Hunger and Obesity, Meat, The Environment, But at What Price, Community and Culture, and Who Wins. The conclusion is Making Food Affordable. How? Eat less meat, don't grow food for fuel, support urban agriculture, and other such excellent ideas.

Colin Sage, Environment and Food, Routledge, 2012: A beautifully designed and well-written examination of every possible way in which food interacts with the environment. It focuses on global food systems and their challenges and what we need to do to make the systems more sustainable.

The Green Report

Per Pinstrup-Anderson P. and Derrill D. Watson II, Food Policy for Development Countries: The Role of Government in Global, National, and Local Food Systems, Cornell University Press, 2011: A serious look at how global food policies affect nutrition and health, poverty and food insecurity, and domestic markets, and the effects of all this on managing natural resources and climate change. The book ends with a chapter on ethical aspects of food systems: "Investments in national and international public goods, particularly infrastructure and agricultural research developed for smallholders, are critical elements in supporting pro-poor economic growth and achieving their human rights."

Madeleine Pullman and Zhaohui Wu, Food Supply Chain Management: Economic, Social, and Environmental Perspectives, Routledge, 2012: A textbook for an undergraduate course but well worth a look for its analyses of how commodity food chains work, trends toward vertical integration, and the way supply chains are or are not regulated: "Many agree that the current system and trends have created a formidable force against the emergence of alternative food systems -- particularly one that considers economic, environmental, and social attributes simultaneously." Desirable foods supply chains would do better for consumers, farm workers, and the environment, and would be a whole lot more sustainable.

Alan Bjerga, Endless Appetities: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest, Bloomberg Press, 2011: Food prices are rising to the point of international crisis. Based on the author's personal visits to farmers around the world, Bjerga explains how the crisis happened (short answer: greed), its tragic effects, and what now has to be done to reverse them.

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Presented by

Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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