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The End of Food
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The End of Food

3.9 10
by Paul Roberts

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Salmonella-tainted tomatoes, riots, and skyrocketing prices are only the latest in a series of food-related crises that have illuminated the failures of the modern food system. In The End of Food, Paul Roberts investigates this system and presents a startling truth—how we make, market, and transport our food is no longer compatible with the billions of


Salmonella-tainted tomatoes, riots, and skyrocketing prices are only the latest in a series of food-related crises that have illuminated the failures of the modern food system. In The End of Food, Paul Roberts investigates this system and presents a startling truth—how we make, market, and transport our food is no longer compatible with the billions of consumers the system was built to serve.

The emergence of large-scale and efficient food production forever changed our relationship with food and ultimately left a vulnerable and paradoxical system in place. High-volume factory systems create new risks for food-borne illness; high-yield crops generate grain, produce, and meat of declining nutritional quality; and while nearly a billion people are overweight, roughly as many people are starving.

In this vivid narrative, Roberts presents clear, stark visions of the future and helps us prepare to make the necessary decisions to survive the demise of food production as we know it.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
An indispensable book. . .the best analysis of the global food economy you are likely to find.—Michael Pollan

Everyone's got to eat, and this spellbinding book makes it clear why that may be a problem.—Bill McKibben

According to the World Health Organization, much of the earth's population is either overeating or starving themselves to death. Over 1.1 billion people consume so much food daily that they are at risk of obesity-related illness; another billion are dying of malnutrition. But according to Paul Roberts's lively critique, our problems are just beginning. In The End of Food, he delineates trends that are effectively ending the age of food superabundance. He describes the long-term destructive effects of low-cost mass food production, explaining how these shortcuts and preventive measures actually irreparably damage our capacity to feed the world's people. Another laser-sharp jeremiad by the author of The End of Oil.
Publishers Weekly

This potentially interesting investigation into the challenges of global food production and distribution is marred by the burial of its argument at the end of the book. Beneath a history of food (old news to any reader of Michael Pollan), factoid avalanches and future-tense fretting, Roberts (The End of Oil) makes a familiar plea for rethinking food systems. When the author illustrates his points with actual players, the narrative becomes affecting and memorable: a French meat packer shows how retail powerhouses dictate prices; a Kenyan farmer demonstrates how "hunger-ending" technologies are often poorly suited to the climates, soils and infrastructures in malnourished regions. Unfortunately, these anecdotes are overshadowed by colorless recitations of Internet research and data culled from interviews. Roberts worries about our "vast and overworked [food] system" and proffers the usual solutions: eat less (land-based) meat, farm more fish, support regional (not just local) agriculture and pressure food policy makers to fund research into more sustainable farming methods (including genetic modification). Despite the undeniable urgency of the issue, Roberts's arguments are as commonplace as his prescriptions. (June 4)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
From Harper's contributor Roberts (The End of Oil, 2004), another dire warning of hard times ahead. This time the author scrutinizes the modern food system, examining its history from prehistoric big-game hunting through the rise of industrialized food production to the retail revolution in which large grocery companies control the supply chain. The result, he asserts, is a low-cost, high-volume model that has reduced the nutritional value of processed food and increased such health problems as obesity and diabetes; it offers superabundance to a few while millions of others go hungry. Roberts argues that the present system is critically vulnerable not only to escalating energy costs and declining supplies of land and water but to the threats of climate change, soil contamination and food-borne diseases. He paints a horrific picture of how all these factors could come together in what he calls " a perfect storm of sequential or even simultaneous food-related calamities" that begins with wheat rust in Uganda and cascades into a global crisis involving droughts, floods, unemployment, mass migrations and a deadly epidemic. To understand how the system operates, the author visited food giant Nestle in Switzerland, a meat-packing plant in France, an agricultural fair in China's Shandong Province and an Albertsons market in Washington state, among other sites, and he consulted with politicians and scientists involved in protecting and expanding the food supply. In his search for solutions, Roberts examines genetically modified foods, organic and integrated polyculture farming, aquaculture and the growing locavore movement ("eat food grown locally"), all of which hold promise but none of whichhas all the answers. The key to change, he declares, lies with an informed and activist public, which is precisely what his book aims to create and energize. A revealing, deeply dismaying overview of how the world's food is produced and marketed. Agent: Heather Schroder/ICM

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Paul Roberts is the author of The End of Oil, a finalist for the New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Book Award in 2005. He has written about resource economics and politics for numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Rolling Stone, and lectures frequently on business and environmental issues. He lives in Washington State.

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The End of Food 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
Journalist Paul Roberts investigated the global food-delivery system and he reports that food product production and prices have advanced like the production and prices of other contemporary consumer goods. The economics of the food system push an ever-faster product cycle driven by supply-and-demand pressures. The infrastructure that delivers food to consumers uses ever-advancing technology. However, food itself is not an ordinary consumer ¿product.¿ Inexpensive food is an illusion, because the process externalizes many food production costs as cheap labor or cheap oil. Roberts explains why the food-delivery system is mired in economic, political and cultural problems, and examines the crisis that looms if it runs out of fuel or water, or both. getAbstract recommends this investigation to readers who want to understand the production, market and consumer implications involved in feeding the people on our planet.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The End of Food' is a highly organized nonfiction novel in which the author, Thomas F. Pawlick, reveals the dismal truth behind The United States' disjointed food industry. The case proposed is convincingly supported by statistics and data throughout the novel, and raises the reader's awareness in a subjective manner. Pawlick begins by focusing the reader¿s attention towards a personal experience regarding his conflict between the appetizing appearance of store bought tomatoes, and the reality of their unfavorable firmness. From this point, Pawlick details the system which provided the tomatoes, exposing a labyrinth of issues which negatively portray the fast, attractive, yet deficient food industry of The United States. In addition, Pawlick elaborates on the statistical evidence suggesting a decrease in nutrition of commercially grown agriculture over the past forty years. The reader is also introduced to the poor utilization of fertile soil, water, and fossil fuels by these industries which, afterwards, discharge dead soil and chemically saturated water, leaving the surrounding environment uninhabitable. Furthermore, as the reader discovers the unnatural condition of the modern food industry, Pawlick suggests alternatives, such as to plant private gardens using heirloom seeds. Major corporations which profit as a result of the food industry are accused of stealing our humanity and health. The wellness of our health is a monumental priority of daily life in order to yield an improved body performance. This, coupled by the nature of our humanity, which has provided food with cultural significance for centuries, are meaningful aspects of our existence. These characteristics should not be reduced by the government's inability to provide reasonable amounts of food with higher quality, opposed to a surplus of food with lower quality. In conclusion, 'The End of Food' is a fascinating journey inside America's flawed agricultural industry. The novel succeeds in arguing food's significance to humanity, suggesting that food sustains our life, strengthening our relationship to the Earth which provides us with sustenance. He further argues that food is more than a product to be consumed without awareness, but rather something to be cherished and cultivated naturally. Thomas F. Pawlick thrives in highlighting the importance of not only our nutrition and relationship with the world around us, but also the importance of indulging our lives with quality instead of quantity.
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Corn is awesome
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