A Few Moments with Raj Patel who thinks the Food Industry should be abolished


M. Saadat Noury
by M. Saadat Noury


On 16 February 2012, the academic and activist Raj Patel joined Jian Ghomaishi (JG) to talk about his recent article appeared at the online journal of the Atlantic. The article which was entitled as "Abolish the Food Industry”. It should be noted that JG is a Canadian broadcaster, writer, musician and producer of Iranian descent who is the host of the national daily cultural affairs talk program of Q, on CBC, a very popular show in Canada. That talk program of Q made this author to do a research work on Raj Patel. In this article, a short profile of Raj Patel, some of his remarks, his recent article on Food Industry, his books, and his Website will be presented and reviewed.

His Profile

Raj Patel (born 1972, London) is a British-born American academic, journalist, activist and writer who has lived and worked in Zimbabwe, South Africa and the United States for extended periods. He has degrees from the University of Oxford, the London School of Economics and Cornell University, has worked for the World Bank and WTO, and protested against them around the world. He’s currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for African Studies, an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a fellow at The Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First. He is currently an IATP Food and Community Fellow. He has testified about the causes of the global food crisis to the US House Financial Services Committee and is an Advisor to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. In addition to numerous scholarly publications, he regularly writes for The Guardian, and has contributed to the LA Times, NYTimes.com, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Mail on Sunday, and The Observer. He has been referred to as "the rock star of social justice writing." View his full biography here

Some of His Remarks

A. Raj Patel not only agrees with many researchers and nutritional scientists that how bad sugar can be for humans , he also thinks “we should limit the power of food corporations to sell unhealthy products in the same way we already do with alcohol and tobacco companies”.

B. "Actually the way modern capitalism works for food is precisely the opposite...in every way that matters we are being made for our food, into the kinds of people who find this [snickers bar] to be palatable, the strangest things to be normal, all of a sudden it is normal for people to live in slavery so that our food and our tomatoes in our burgers can be made cheaply...things like redbull become an integral part of the way to work.. we need fast food for example because you are holding down two jobs you trying to run from one place to another".

C. "If you think the sugar industry’s benign, think again. News is breaking of a hidden epidemic among workers on sugar plantations, one that has already claimed thousands of lives. And even if you don’t work in the industry, the health care consequences – 75% of healthcare dollars going to the treatment of metabolic syndrome, associated with increased sugar consumption – are borne across society".

D. "Want to explore what it might be like to live without corporations in the food system? Join Occupy The Food Supply on Feb 27th and dream big".

His Recent Article on Food Industry

Here’s a part of his recent article that appeared on Feb 6 with the title of "Abolish the Food Industry" at the Atlantic.

"... The cigarette industry survives, as does its advertising. Cigarette companies’ rights to free speech have, however, been curtailed on grounds of public health, and for the health of children above all... Alcohol is similarly circumscribed, again with an eye to public health and, again, with a particular concern for young people. But if public health is a legitimate reason to curb corporations’ advertising to kids, why limit bans to cigarettes and booze, and not include, say, unhealthy food?

A paper in the latest issue of Nature by Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt, and Claire Brindis fuels the debate, pointing to the long-term similarities of sugar and alcohol consumption. The paper’s authors freely admit that a little sugar is fine, but “a lot kills...slowly.” They argue that sugar meets the same four generally accepted public health criteria used to regulate alcohol: it is unavoidable, toxic, has the potential for abuse, and has a negative impact on society. Given the food industry’s power, and fears of a nanny state, it’s unsurprising that the paper’s authors are caught in a flame war....I side with the American Psychological Association in thinking that advertising to children is unconscionable. Rather than dwell on the First Amendment issue, which strikes me as an easy case to make, I think it’s worth addressing a deeper question underlying the San Francisco cigarette-in-pharmacy ban: Why allow an industry that profits from the sale of unhealthy food at all?...The analogy of tobacco with food isn’t perfect, clearly. People who eat Twinkies often want to eat Twinkies, and we all need to eat. But it’s increasingly common to see the medical literature push forward an understanding of sugar addiction and it’s also true that our food choices are far from free, in no small part because of the commercial and cultural power of the food industry....Few have lived in a world in which a handful of corporations don’t run the food system. The food industry has made our world theirs. Instant meals and ready calories are as much a part of the fabric of late capitalist life as the culture in which they’re acceptable. Excising corporations from an economy that has come to depend on their products addresses the problem of added toxins in food. But it does little to change the circumstance that renders those foods a caloric raft for the poor, nor does it address deeper injustices within the food system spawned by corporate power". Read more //rajpatel.org/

His Books

He is best known for his 2008 book, Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. His most recent book is The Value of Nothing, which was on The New York Times best-seller list during February 2010. He has been referred to as "the rock star of social justice writing". Read more: //rajpatel.org/category/books

His Website

In his Website addressed as //rajpatel.org/ he presents his profile, his books, his blog, the events, various videos, etc.


Tow important points should be noted. Firstly, the purpose of posting this article is mainly to introduce the academic and activist Raj Patel to the audiences of iranian.com (IC). Secondly, quoting Raj Patel does not mean this author necessarily agrees with his remarks or supports the views expressed by that academic and activist.

Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD

Read more about Few Moments with Famous People on MISSING MOMENTS

more from M. Saadat Noury
M. Saadat Noury

Dear RB

by M. Saadat Noury on

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Please accept this in return

Some Observations on Happiness //iranian.com/main/blog/m-saadat-noury/some-observations-happiness

M. Saadat Noury


by M. Saadat Noury on

Dear COP  You are welcome.

Dear AI  Thank you for your interesting link; please accept this in return  //rajpatel.org/category/videos/


Mr. Patel is not saying anything new

by Reality-Bites on

Yes, we know sugar is not good for you, but it makes food taste good, so what you're gonna do? And in any case, we all die sooner or later anyway, so why not enjoy eating food that tastes good and makes us happier in the short time that we have in this world?

On a slightly different note, since earlier someone mentioned contraceptives, Maybe Mr. Patel, the highly educed fellow that he is, might take time to reflect on this: India (the country of Mr Patel's ethnic origin) had a population of just over 300 million people when it regained its independence from the British Empire in the late 1940s.

India's population now sands about 1.2billion and continuing to rise at an alarming rate. If you add the populations of Pakistan and Bangladesh, which were parts of India at the time of independence from the Brits, that would take the whole of the Indian sub-continent's population to well over 1.5billion. So in just over six decades, the Indian sub-continent's population has increased by about 500%!

Maybe if our Indian/Pakistani/Bengali friends had considered the idea of family planning and educated their people about the use of contraceptives, they would not have so many people living in abject poverty and in the chronically overcrowded cities in that part of the world and feeding them would be a far less daunting challennge too.

Anyway, to me problem of population explosion in this world of ours, which only has finite amount of usable land and resources, is a much scarier thought than the evils of sugar.


Raj Patel: Feeding the World

by All-Iranians on


Thanks Dr. Nouri

by Cost-of-Progress on

I just did.

M. Saadat Noury

Dear COP

by M. Saadat Noury on

Thank you for your comment and your good observations. It is  suggested that you may post your questions to the following link of Raj Patel's Website : //rajpatel.org/comments/feed/


In defence of "food industry"

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

I know that it is trendy and to some degree correct, to criticize the "modern methodes of mass producing food". But what is being missed here is that without this  highly efficient (yet by no means fault free) industry, there would be widespread famine and war and definitely much lower human population and consequently scientific and technological growth.

In my opinion, what is being far less focused on and discussed, the real issue is not the "food industry" itself, but how the products of this industry are consumed and more importantly distriubuted across the globe. The challenge  is of even  distribution of food across the globe, and identifying  why it is not happening. Why so much food is wasted in affluent west and yet in certain parts of the world (including very sadly our own country Iran..) children's growth is being hampered or worse by lack of basic nutrition. 

In 21st centrury, there should be no excuse whatsoever for poverty and hunger.



Public health: The toxic truth about sugar

by All-Iranians on


While I agree with the basic premise and argument

by Cost-of-Progress on

I must ask the question:

With the ever increasing population of the rock we live on, availability of cheap and abundant food sources will become even more important in the years to come than they are today.

In a world where one of their most advanced nations is still entangled in the debate whether contarceptives are god's choice, and whether those promoting their use are anti christ or anti religion, it would be prudent to believe there will only be MORE PEOPLE to feed as we move forward.

I wonder what Mr. Patel's position is on that? 

M. Saadat Noury

Dear AI

by M. Saadat Noury on

Thank you for your informative comment; please accept this in return  //www.foodpolitics.com/

M. Saadat Noury

Dear Maryam

by M. Saadat Noury on

Thank you for your kind comment; please accept this in return //www.cbc.ca/q/


Thanks Jenab Dr Noury

by All-Iranians on

It seems Raj Patel is a very interesting guy; he also described himself as "not a communist, I'm just open minded".

Maryam Hojjat

Dr. saadat Nouri, Great Blog

by Maryam Hojjat on

Thank you for puting this blog together.  It is very informative and nice to know Raj Patel and his work.