Industrial food and farming has been very successful in producing more food, and cheaper food. But it has come at a very high cost. The practices have wrecked havoc in important biological systems, in particular in bio-diversity and the nitrogen and carbon cycles. The food system squanders its own resource base and the most precious resource on the planet, the soil. Animals are treated in a disgraceful way. While food is abundant, the distribution system, the market, fails to reach 1 billion people which are hungry, while equally many eat too much and loads of food are simply wasted. More and more people are opposing the modern food system, a few have the energy to build a new system.
Global Eating Disorder explains how our food and farm system developed into the system we have today, and how interdependent our food system and society are. Gunnar Rundgren demonstrates how farming and food processing technologies have transformed our lives and our relationship not only with nature, the plants we grow and the animals we raise, but also the relationships among ourselves. The book can be read as an evolutionary cookbook as it explains how and why the stuff on our plate reached there.
The last few hundred years, and in an sharply increasing pace, width and depth, the global market revolution fueled by oil and coal, and shaped by endless competition and rent-seeking has been the factor that has determined the whole food system, from the prairies to the supermarket shelf, from the production of margarine to the emergence of fast food chains. It even transformed the act of eating from an act of confirmation of social relations to individual satisfaction of real or imaginary dietary needs. Global Eating Disorder – the true cost of cheap food tells the story with a mix of long term historical perspective and plenty of current day experiences from all continents of the world.
But it left us, the animals and the planet unhappy. Most people feel a profound discomfort over how their food is produced and how this affects both the quality of the food and the world we live in. As a response to this organic farming, fair trade and alike has developed. These systems are by and large still subject to the market imperatives of competition, profit and constant labor productivity increase, and increasingly so the more successful they are. This limits their transformational power.
Real change of our farm and food system must be linked also to changes in social institutions, in particular the market. This has already started with efforts such as community supported agriculture, transition movements, local food movements, participatory guarantee systems and urban farming. A truly regenerative food and farm system will close loops of flow of energy, nutrients and most importantly meaning and culture. It will also have to reflect the role of our agriculture system for management of the planet at large and recreate links between city and land.
Global Eating Disorder shows a path forward. A path of regeneration and co-production of resources, innovation, knowledge and meaning embedded in new social and economic relationships.