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One of the most persistent and startling news stories of the past year has been the global crisis in the world's food supply. Reduced stockpiles have led to panic buying and hoarding, a sharp rise in prices, food riots, the virtual collapse of portions of the food industry, and dire warnings about food and water shortages. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has forecast prices to remain high for the foreseeable future, and the World Bank has predicted that this rise will push an additional 100 million people into poverty around the world. Theories about the roots of the crisis are many, diverse and contradictory: from increased production of biofuels, to rising populations, climate change, and environmentally harmful and inefficient farming practices. In Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know, Robert Paarlberg, one of the most prominent scholars writing on agricultural issues, maps out and demystifies the phenomena that newspapers and magazines have variously labelled as causes of the food crisis, often in highly alarmist tones. Over the course of the book, Paarlberg addresses, in straightforward terms, questions about global food trade policy, agricultural subsidies, the factors contributing to famine and malnutrition, the green revolution, the effects of climate change on farming, the pros and cons of biofuels, food safety and regulation, pesticide use, organic farming, and genetically modified crops. Focusing on the world's most vulnerable populations and couched within a firm historical understanding of farming practices, nutritional standards, and food movements, what he uncovers will surely be surprising to many readers and stand as a corrective to reactionary takes on the state of global agriculture. Paarlberg concludes with a revealing chapter on common assumptions about the food crisis and the future of food, pointing the way toward socially and environmentally sustainable-and attainable-practices in agriculture and the wider food industry.
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