AWI Quarterly Book Reviews - Spring 2007

This Land is Their Land: How Corporate Farms Threaten the WorldThis Land is Their Land: How Corporate Farms Threaten the World

by Evaggelos Vallianatos
Common Courage, 2006
ISBN: 9781567513585
315 pages; $19.95

Drawing from a variety of recent books and studies on corporate agribusiness, This Land Is Their Land shows that in such areas as agricultural policy, land ownership, agriculture financing and lending, seeds, chemicals, energy, farm machinery, crop milling and processing, food production, advertising and the wholesaling and retailing of food, corporate agribusiness has become the dominant force both in the US and throughout the world.

Author Evaggelos Vallianatos carefully examines the effect of industrialized farming in such countries and areas of the world as Brazil and Africa, and explores how it has become the Western culture's most aggressive and colonizing impulse. He also warns that "there's going to be hell to pay" over the disregard of the environment, ranging from changing weather conditions to such occurrences as the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

By painstakingly laying out both the evolving crisis that corporate agribusiness is generating while at the same time showing the reader how knowledge may well save family farming as well as the integrity and wholesomeness of the food we eat, Vallianatos has contributed immeasurably to our understanding of not only the history of agriculture and food, but the path we must take to save ourselves from ourselves.

"A well-informed citizenry," he concludes, "is our best defense against the terrors of factory culture. An informed and caring citizenry is likely to put his money where his health is..." I would simply add: "Do you know where your food comes from?"

By Al Krebs, editor of The Corporate Agribusiness Research Project (Review excerpted from the April 1, 2006 issue of The Progressive Populist)


 

Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching

Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatchingby Michael Greger, M.D.
Lantern Books, 2006
ISBN-10: 1590560981
Hardcover; 465 pages; $30

In this thoroughly referenced work, Dr. Michael Greger counters common misconceptions about what many believe will be an H5N1 avian influenza pandemic on a scale greater than the 1918 flu pandemic that sickened half the world and killed between 50 and 100 million people. For example, although many believe migrating wild fowl will spread the virus, Greger notes that H5N1 has existed in a "benign" form in these birds for millennia without becoming lethal. Medical literature contains only two reports of human infection from wild bird viruses.

And while many believe that the breeding ground for avian flu will be backyard poultry flocks and commercial outdoor operations, Greger explains that self-preservation dictates a virus should not kill its host unless there is another potential host close by for it to infect. The low population density in outdoor poultry production and backyard flocks makes it difficult for viruses to spread from bird to bird. Under such conditions, it behooves the virus to remain mild enough to preserve the host. The low-stress outdoor environments help birds maintain a healthy immune response, keeping the virus in check.

In contrast, the crowded conditions of modern, industrial poultry production (where tens and even hundreds of thousands of immune-compromised birds may live in a single shed) are a perfect breeding ground for more virulent flu strains. Here, viruses can easily mutate to become deadly—and subsequently be spread widely by transport vehicles.

Greger does not dismiss the potential for a worldwide flu pandemic. Rather, he makes the case that its source will not be what so many people fear, but something closer to home and potentially preventable, if we have the will to change how food animals are raised.


 

Managing for Extinction

Managing for Extinction By the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), 2007
One copy free to AWI members
$3.00 for non-members
(cost-price, includes S&H)

We have released a newly revised edition of Managing for Extinction, a 30-page report detailing the failures of the National Wild Horse and Burro Program. Agencies in charge have lost sight of the legal mandate of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and this publication provides insights on ways in which the program and our wild horses might be saved.