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The End of Food by Paul Roberts

By Red Wattle | Books | February 22, 2010 |

By Red Wattle | Books | February 22, 2010 |

I started reading The End of Food by Paul Roberts in November to review as my first book for Canonball Read, and I just finished reading it now. In that time I read one and a half other books. That in itself is a good indication of how dense and dry The End of Food is. For a book on a subject that I’m very passionate about I was surprised by how difficult it was to stay awake while reading it.

If you can get past the readability issues of the book, The End of Food is well researched and packed with a lot of information on what is wrong with the food system today and opinions on what can be done to fix it. Unfortunately the scope of the book is so vast that Roberts seems to suggest that as only one consumer I can do very little to improve farming practices and food quality. The book reads like a manuscript intended for Congress describing all sectors Roberts believes should be regulated in order to affect change in the US food system.

I’d like to think that as a consumer the decisions I make, such as buying food from small, sustainable farms, can make a difference and support an alternative food economy. As for food policy, just leveling the playing field between small farms and megafarms would go a long way. Many laws are written with large farms in mind and aren’t scalable; regulatory fees and costs apply similarly to a small family farms as to a megafarms that are in a much better position to absorb these costs. Paul Roberts implies that small sustainable farms can’t support everyone, so he ignores the possibility of consumer choice to participate in a traditional or alternative food economy.

Policies aimed at making the current food system more sustainable may be a step in the right direction, but also leave a lot to be desired. I’d rather use my consumer choice to support small farmers who are treating land and animals well right now. Maybe small farms using thoughtful practices can’t feed the whole world, but that doesn’t mean they should be forced out of the market by policies written with only large agri-business in mind.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read. For more of Red Wattle’s reviews, check out the blog.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.