Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Last Bite

"Schlosser asked his readers to consider the chain of consequences they set in motion every time they sit down to eat in a fast-food outlet. Roberts wants us to consider the “chain of transactions and reactions” represented by each of our food purchases—“by each ripe melon or freshly baked bagel, by each box of cereal or tray of boneless skinless chicken breasts.” This time, we are all implicated.

Driven by our bottomless stomachs, Roberts argues, the modern economy has reduced food to a “commodity” like any other, which must be generated in ever greater units at an ever lower cost, year by year, like sneakers or DVDs. But food isn’t like sneakers or DVDs. If we max out our credit cards buying Nikes, we can simply push them to the back of a closet. By contrast, our insatiable demand for food must be worn on our bodies, often in the form of diabetes as well as obesity. Overeating makes us miserable, and ill, but medical advances mean that it takes a long time to kill us, so we keep on eating. Roberts, whose impulse to connect everything up is both his strength and his weakness, concludes, grandly, that “food is fundamentally not an economic phenomenon.” On the contrary, food has always been an economic phenomenon, but in its current form it is one struggling to meet our uncurbed appetites. What we are witnessing is not the end of food but a market on the brink of failure. Those bearing the brunt are, as in Malthus’s day, the people at the bottom." (Thanks to Akhuy fil-Mahjar)

This is one of the most comprehensive and readable articles on the global food crisis from the New Yorker.


Anonymous said...

The article: Link

Anonymous said...


How can I find this article and who is the author?


Mike on a small farm in Massachusetts

Anonymous said...

Bee Wilson, 19 May, New Yorker. It's last week but surely you can locate a copy in Massachusetts sooner than Rami can direct you from Beirut.

Rami Zurayk said...

Silly me forgot to link the article. Done that now.

Unknown said...

The article has been sitting on my kitchen table waiting to be read. I will make sure to read it now.