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Diet for a Dead Planet: How the Food Industry Is Killing Usby Christopher D Cook
Synopses & Reviews
As mad cow disease hits hard in the United States and bird flu roils the Asian poultry markets, the issue of food safety has never been more stark. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 75 million Americans fell sick last year from the food they ate. Christopher D. Cook's riveting and timely investigation takes us beyond Fast Food Nation to explain why our entire food system is in crisis. Corporate consolidation of farms and supermarkets, high-tech drives to increase productivity, misplaced subsidies for exports, and inadequate regulation have all combined to produce a grim harvest. In these pages we encounter fruit and vegetables laminated by crop spray, slaughterhouses that transport illegal immigrants to the United States to butcher diseased meat for less than the minimum wage, and the near-extinction of American family farms.
Yet, Cook argues, there is another way: Sales of organic food nearly tripled to $13 billion in 2001-2002. Farmers' markets and food cooperatives are burgeoning across the nation, and the slow food and food justice movements have become part of the mainstream. The eloquence and concision of Diet for a Dead Planet will spur the campaign still further.
"The 'toxic cornucopia' of big agriculture is pilloried in this populist manifesto. Journalist Cook offers a nauseating recap of familiar charges: factory farming serves up pesticide-laden produce; the horrifying mills of high-density feedlots and hog and poultry sheds produce meat laced with hormones and antibiotics but still tainted with lethal bacteria; pesticide, fertilizer and manure runoff pollute air and water; immigrant meatpackers are paid paltry wages and physically ruined by inhuman line speedups. The heart of the book is an analysis of agricultural economics straight out of an 1890s Grange hall. Cook laments the destruction of family farms by a corporate 'octopus' of agribusiness giants and parasitic middlemen who squeeze prices for farm products and inflate them for highly processed convenience foods on the store shelf, abetted by government farm subsidies that encourage overproduction and favor big producers. Cook's objections often seem to be to aimed at modernity itself — to the same forces of technology-driven, mechanized productivity that have industrialized the nonfarm economy. He doesn't explain how, without legions of housewives to make meals from scratch, we can do without food-processing middlemen nor why his program of returning to small family farms will curb abuses of animals, workers, consumers and the environment better than firmer government regulation of large-scale agriculture. His indictment is compelling, but his nostalgic remedy isn't fully persuasive." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Stands in the classic American tradition of muckraking journalism. Cook offers an extensive and frightening catalog of the perils in our food supply." San Diego Union-Tribune
"A far-reaching takedown of the American food industry...further explores the stomach-churning realm described by Eric Schlosser." Mother Jones
"A book that forces you to look at things that you took for granted. Like breakfast." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Provides the big picture, along with fascinating details, to motivate change before it's too late." Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet
"A powerful and provocative indictment of the food industry. If you eat, read this important book! " Jim Hightower, author of Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush
"Christopher Cook helps us rethink the very ethical and environmental principles that ought to guide our approach to food. In short, Cook is imploring us to think more deeply about our most basic connections to the earth. He raises the big questions and steers us to some possible answers." Jeremy Rifkin, President, Foundation on Economic Trends
"I have worked with hundreds of journalists, and Chris is quite simply one of the very best...he has a keen sense of how economics and politics interact to shape the world we live in." Eric Bates, Rolling Stone
This absorbing study looks at the dangers of American food production, including exposure of food to food-borne pathogens, pesticides, and much more.
If we are what we eat, then, as Christopher D. Cook contends in this powerful look at the food industry, we are not in good shape. The facts speak for themselves: more than 75 million Americans suffered from food poisoning last year, and 5,000 of them died; 67 percent of American males are overweight, obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States and supersizing is just the tip of the iceberg: the way we make and eat food today is putting our environment and the very future of food at risk.
Diet for a Dead Planet, now available in paperback, takes us beyond Fast Food Nation to show how our entire food system is in crisis. Corporate control of farms and supermarkets, unsustainable drives to increase agribusiness productivity and profits, misplaced subsidies for exports, and anemic regulation have all combined to produce a grim harvest. Food, our most basic necessity, has become a force behind a staggering array of social, economic, and environmental epidemics.
Yet there is another way. Cook argues cogently for a whole new way of looking at what we eat — one that places healthy, sustainably produced food at the top of the menu for change. In the words of Jim Hightower, "If you eat, read this important book!"
About the Author
Christopher D. Cook is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work has appeared in Harper's, Mother Jones, the Christian Science Monitor, the Nation, and the Economist. He lives in San Francisco.
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