As TEDxManhattan approaches, we are checking in with past speakers to get an update on their work. Below, Frederick Kaufman, a contributing editor at Harper’s and a professor at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, updates us on his new book. At TEDxManhattan 2011, Frederick spoke about research projects aimed at developing metrics to define what sustainable food is.
Food journalist and 2011 TEDxManhattan speaker Frederick Kaufman has written Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food, published in October 2012. In the last half decade, the world has seen two devastating spikes in the price of food, and a third may be on the way. In 2008 and 2010, farmers gathered record wheat harvests, yet more people starved than ever before—and most of them were farmers. How is that possible? In Bet the Farm, Harper’s magazine contributing editor Frederick Kaufman investigates the hidden connection between global food and global finance by asking the simple question: Why can’t delicious, inexpensive, and healthy food be available to everyone on Earth?
Like a detective intent on solving a mystery, Kaufman travels from the corporate headquarters of Domino’s Pizza and Tyson Foods to Wal-Mart’s sustainability research center, to mega-farms and organic farms and numerous genetic modification laboratories. Kaufman goes to Rome to the meeting of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and finally ends up on Wall Street and the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he discovers the answer to the riddle. His investigation reveals that money pouring into the global derivatives market in grain futures is having astonishing consequences that reach far beyond your dinner table, including the Arab Spring, bankrupt farmers, starving masses, and armies of scientists creating new GMO foods with U.S. marketing and shipping needs in mind instead of global nutrition.
Our food is getting less healthy, less delicious, and more expensive even as the world’s biggest food companies and food scientists say things are better than ever and that the rest of us should leave it to them to feed the world. Readers of Bet the Farm will glimpse the power behind global food and understand what truly supports the system that has brought mass misery to our planet.