Hungry for Profit

Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment

FRED MAGDOFF
JOHN BELLAMY FOSTER
FREDERICK H. BUTTEL
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 220
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfp9p
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  • Book Info
    Hungry for Profit
    Book Description:

    Millions go hungry every year in both poor and rich nations, yet hundreds of thousands of peasants and farmers continue to be pushed off the land. Applied in increasing volumes, chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers deplete the soil, pollute our food and water, and leave crops more vulnerable to pest outbreaks. The new and expanding use of genetically engineered seeds threatens species diversity. This penetrating set of essays explains why corporate agribusiness is a rising threat to farmers, the environment, and consumers. Ranging in subject from the politics of hunger to the new agricultural biotechnologies, and in time and place from early modern Europe to contemporary Cuba, the contributions to Hungry for Profit examine the changes underway in world agriculture today and point the way toward organic, sustainable solutions to problems of food supply.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-395-9
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. AN OVERVIEW
    (pp. 7-22)
    FRED MAGDOFF, JOHN BELLAMY FOSTER and FREDERICK H. BUTTEL

    The conventional view that agriculture was displaced by industry in two stages—by the industrial revolution in the late nineteenth century and, as a result of the rise of the agribusiness system in the mid-twentieth century—has left many observers of the contemporary issues with the impression that to deal with agriculture is essentially to focus on political-economic history rather than contemporary political economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of this book is to help compensate for the neglect that agriculture has often suffered in political-economic literature of the late twentieth century, and to assist what...

  4. Chapter One THE AGRARIAN ORIGINS OF CAPITALISM
    (pp. 23-42)
    ELLEN MEIKSINS WOOD

    One of the most well established conventions of Western culture is the association of capitalism with cities. Capitalism is supposed to have been born and bred in the city. But more than that, the implication is thatanycity—with its characteristic practices of trade and commerce—is by its very nature potentially capitalist from the start, and only extraneous obstacles have stood in the way of any urban civilization giving rise to capitalism. Only the wrong religion, the wrong kind of state, or any kind of ideological, political, or cultural fetters tying the hands of urban classes, have prevented...

  5. Chapter Two LIEBIG, MARX, AND THE DEPLETION OF SOIL FERTILITY: RELEVANCE FOR TODAY’S AGRICULTURE
    (pp. 43-60)
    JOHN BELLAMY FOSTER and FRED MAGDOFF

    During the period 1830-1870, the depletion of the natural fertility of the soil through the loss of soil nutrients was the central ecological concern of capitalist society in both Europe and North America (only comparable to concerns over the loss of forests, the growing pollution of the cities, and the Malthusian specter of overpopulation). This period saw the growth of guano imperialism as nations scoured the globe for natural fertilizers; the emergence of modern soil science; the gradual introduction of synthetic fertilizers; and the formation of radical proposals for the development of a sustainable agriculture, aimed ultimately at the elimination...

  6. Chapter Three CONCENTRATION OF OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL IN AGRICULTURE
    (pp. 61-76)
    WILLIAM D. HEFFERNAN

    Native Americans and the European settlers who subsequently occupied the territory of the United States developed an agricultural and food production system that was largely self-sufficient. Most families produced, processed, and consumed their own food. Families made many of the tools and produced most of the seed they needed, and raised their own animal power. Few items were purchased for food production and processing, but there was very little surplus food or fiber to sell. The family controlled its food system from seed to plate—the ultimate integrated food system. The purpose of colonies, however, was to send raw materials,...

  7. Chapter Four ECOLOGICAL IMPACTS OF INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE AND THE POSSIBILITIES FOR TRULY SUSTAINABLE FARMING
    (pp. 77-92)
    MIGUEL A. ALTIERI

    Until about four decades ago, crop yields in agricultural systems depended mainly on internal resources, recycling of organic matter, built-in biological control mechanisms, and natural rainfall patterns. Agricultural yields were modest but stable. Production was safeguarded by growing more than one crop or variety in a field as insurance against pest outbreaks or severe weather. Inputs of nitrogen were gained by rotating major field crops with legumes. Growing many different types of crops over the years in the same field also suppressed insects, weeds, and diseases by effectively breaking the life cycles of these pests. A typical corn-belt farmer grew...

  8. Chapter Five THE MATURING OF CAPITALIST AGRICULTURE: FARMER AS PROLETARIAN
    (pp. 93-106)
    R.C. LEWONTIN

    We are all familiar with the classical story of how capitalism came to dominate industrial production and how capitalist relations of production swallowed up the individual artisanal producer. We recognize the power that the capitalist mode has to infiltrate and finally transform other forms of the organization of production and exchange. We sometimes think that the power of that transformation is so great that all of the significant action already occurred in the past, at least in Europe and North America, and was essentially over by the end of the nineteenth century. In the society we inhabit, it is a...

  9. Chapter Six NEW AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGIES: THE STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRATIC CHOICE
    (pp. 107-124)
    GERAD MIDDENDORF, MIKE SKLADANY, ELIZABETH RANSOM and LAWRENCE BUSCH

    In the contemporary global agrifood system, the emergence of a plethora of new agricultural biotechnologies¹ poses a series of far-reaching social, technical and ethical consequences and contradictions. These tools have radically merged questions of design at the molecular level with those of agricultural change. With more possible technological paths than ever before, the new biotechnologies have made technology choice central in the discourse over the future of agriculture. Implicit in the choice of these technologies is a redesigning of nature that could profoundly transform the agrifood system, ecosystems, and the social organization of agriculture. Indeed, global food production and consumption...

  10. Chapter Seven GLOBAL FOOD POLITICS
    (pp. 125-144)
    PHILIP McMICHAEL

    In the early 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that Pacific Asia would absorb two-thirds of the over $3 billion increase in global demand for farm exports by the year 2000.¹ Pacific Asian imports would be assisted by $1 billion in U.S. Export Enhancement Program subsidies to American exporters. A portion of this lucrative market (much of which is tinned beef and processed foods sold in South Korea and Taiwan) would involve bulk wheat and corn imports by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The USDA predicted:

    In the absence of sustained, aggressive investment in infrastructure and increased competitiveness for...

  11. Chapter Eight THE GREAT GLOBAL ENCLOSURE OF OUR TIMES: PEASANTS AND THE AGRARIAN QUESTION AT THE END OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
    (pp. 145-160)
    FARSHAD ARAGHI

    Over the past five decades, a massive number of the world’s people have been dispossessed, uprooted and displaced, “the means whereby they lived” having been taken in the name of development, modernization, industrialization, growth, globalization, progress, and profit. During this time, an enormous number of people who were involved in agriculture with direct access to the production of their means of subsistence were expropriated and displaced, creating huge urban masses of superfluous people. Between 1950 and 1990, the share of labor force in agriculture declined by 33 percent in the world and fell by 40 percent in the Third World....

  12. Chapter Nine ORGANIZING U.S. FARM WORKERS: A CONTINUOUS STRUGGLE
    (pp. 161-174)
    LINDA C. MAJKA and THEO J. MAJKA

    There have been two periods of intense union activism among U.S. farm workers, both of which were accompanied by considerable protest, public involvement, and eventual governmental support, at least at the state level. The first was die Depression era of the 1930s in which first the Communist Party and later the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) took up die cause of farm workers. These activities, however, came to an abrupt conclusion as the expansion of jobs in urban areas in preparation for United States entry into the Second World War drained the enormous agricultural labor surplus and stimulated the importation...

  13. Chapter Ten REBUILDING LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS FROM THE GRASSROOTS UP
    (pp. 175-188)
    ELIZABETH HENDERSON

    The grassroots movement for a sustainable food and agriculture system has been gaining momentum over the past decade. From a scattering of isolated individuals practicing alternative farming methods and small, local organizations, sustainable agriculture is swelling into a significant social movement with a national network and an effective policy wing. Populist in spirit, with strong feelings for civil rights and social justice, and an underlying spirituality, this movement is not linked with any political party or religious sect. It is firmly grounded in every region in the country, encompassing organic and low-input farmers; food, farming, farmworker, community food security, and...

  14. Chapter Eleven WANT AMID PLENTY: FROM HUNGER TO INEQUALITY
    (pp. 189-202)
    JANET POPPENDIECK

    “Scouting has some unacceptable,” the Executive Director of the Jersey Shore Council of the Boy Scouts of America told me, “and one of them is hunger.”¹ We were talking in the entrance to the Ciba Geigy company cafeteria in Toms River, New Jersey, where several hundred Boy Scouts, their parents, grandparents, siblings, and neighbors were sorting and packing the 280,000 pounds of canned goods that the scouts of this Council had netted in their 1994 Scouting For Food drive. The food would be stored on the Ciba Geigy corporate campus, where downsizing had left a number of buildings empty, and...

  15. Chapter Twelve CUBA: A SUCCESSFUL CASE STUDY OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
    (pp. 203-214)
    PETER M. ROSSET

    Our global food system is in the midst of a multifaceted crisis, with ecological, economic, and social dimensions. To overcome that crisis, political and social changes are needed to allow the widespread development of alternatives.

    The current food system is productive—there should be no doubt about that—as per capita food produced in the world has increased by 15 percent over the past thirty-five years. But as that production is in ever fewer hands, and costs ever more in economic and ecological terms, it becomes harder and harder to address the basic problems of hunger and food access in...

  16. Chapter Thirteen THE IMPORTANCE OF LAND REFORM IN THE RECONSTRUCTION OF CHINA
    (pp. 215-230)
    WILLIAM HINTON

    From the early 1920s through 1949, when the Peoples Liberation Army liberated Beijing, the Chinese people, rising in revolution under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, targeted domestic feudalism, bureaucratic capitalism, and foreign imperialism as the three mountains on their backs that had to be thrown off. In the 1920s and early 1930s, the landlord-dominated feudal land system was the central issue, and land reform—equal distribution of the land to all who labored on it—formed the heart of the revolutionary program. After 1937, when the Japanese embarked on the military conquest of China, their imperialist invasion,...

  17. APPENDIX RESOURCE LIST
    (pp. 231-234)
  18. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 235-238)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 239-248)