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Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment


The agribusiness/food sector is the second most profitable industry in the United States — following pharmaceuticals — with annual sales over $400 billion. Contributing to its profitability are the breathtaking strides in biotechnology coupled with the growing concentration of ownership and control by food’s largest corporations. Everything, from decisions on which foods are produced, to how they are processed, distributed, and marketed is, remarkably, dictated by a select few giants wielding enormous power. More and more farmers are forced to adopt new technologies and strategies with consequences potentially harmful to the environment, our health, and the quality of our lives. The role played by trade institutions like the World Trade Organization, serves only to make matters worse.

Through it all, the paradox of capitalist agriculture persists: ever-greater numbers remain hungry and malnourished despite an increase in world food supplies and the perpetuation of food overproduction.

Hungry for Profit presents a historical analysis and an incisive overview of the issues and debates surrounding the global commodification of agriculture. Contributors address the growing public concern over food safety and controversial developments in agricultural biotechnology including genetically engineered foods. Hungry for Profit also examines the extent to which our environmental, social, and economic problems are intertwined with the structure of global agriculture as it now exists.

Hungry for Profit demystifies the reasons why hunger proliferates in the midst of plenty and points the way toward sustainable solutions. Perhaps most important, it highlights the ways in which farmers, farmworkers, environmental and sustainable agriculture groups — as well as consumers — are engaged in the struggle to create a just and environmentally sound food system which, its editors argue, cannot be separated from a just and environmentally sound society.

This is a timely and useful book … packed with thoughtful ideas and challenging analyses…. The editors’ overview is excellent, characterized by clarity and force … the editors have done an excellent job in the selection of articles and/or the assignment of topics. They have packed a great deal into what is really quite a short and tightly edited manuscript.


A strong and timely collection … a compelling, historically oriented survey of the political economy of the state-supported corporate takeover of world food production.



  • The Agrarian Origins of Capitalism, by ELLEN MEIKSINS WOOD
  • Liebig, Marx, and the Depletion of Soil Fertility: Relevance for Today’s Agriculture, JOHN BELLAMY FOSTER and FRED MAGDOFF
  • Concentration of Ownership and Control in Agriculture, by WILLIAM D. HEFFERNAN
  • Ecological Impacts of Industrial Agriculture and the Possibilities for Sustainable Farming, by MIGUEL A. ALTIERI
  • The Maturing of Capitalist Agriculture: Farmer as Proletarian, by R.C. LEWONTIN
  • New Agricultural Biotechnologies: The Struggle for Democratic Choice, by GERAD MIDDENDORF, MIKE SKLADNY, ELIZABETH RANSOM, and LAWRENCE BUSCH
  • Global Food Politics, by PHILIP McMICHAEL
  • The Great Global Enclosure of Our Times: Peasants and the Agrarian Question at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century, by FARSHAD ARAGHI
  • Organizing U.S. Farmworkers: A Continuous Struggle, by LINDA C. MAJKA & THEO J. MAJKA
  • Rebuilding Local Food Systems from the Grassroots Up, by ELIZABETH HENDERSON
  • Want Amid Plenty: From Hunger to Inequality, by JANET POPPENDIECK
  • Cuba: A Successful Case Study of Sustainable Agriculture, by PETER M. ROSSET
  • The Importance of Land Reform in the Reconstruction of China, by WILLIAM HINTON

Fred Magdoff is professor of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont and the author of Building Soils for Better Crops (1993). John Bellamy Foster is associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. He is coeditor of Monthly Review and Organization and Environment and the author of The Vulnerable Planet (1999) and Marx’s Ecology (2000) and coeditor of Capitalism and the Information Age (1998), and In Defense of History (1996). Frederick Buttel is professor of rural sociology and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author or editor of several books, including Environment and Modernity (1999).

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SKU: mrp0165 Categories: , ,

Publication Date: September 2000

Number of Pages: 220

Paperback ISBN: 9781583670163

eBook ISBN: 9781583673942