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Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization

by Richard Manning (Author)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
In this controversial and prodigiously researched condemnation of our current
and past systems of growing grain, Manning (Food's Frontier: The Next Green
Revolution) argues that the major forces that have shaped the world-disease,
imperialism, colonialism, slavery, trade, wealth-are all a part of the culture
of agriculture. He traces the beginnings of agriculture to the Middle East,
where plants were abundant and easily domesticated in coastal areas;
hunter-gathers, who became fishermen, formed settlements near river mouths.
Manning skillfully details the historical spread of agriculture through the
conquest of indigenous peoples and describes how this expansion led to
overpopulation, famine and disease in Europe, Asia and Africa. Sugar agriculture
was supported by slaves and farming by laborers who grew produce for the rich
while the workers ate a high carbohydrate diet (potatoes, rice, sugar, bread)
and ingested no protein. In the U.S., modern agriculture has evolved into an
industrial system where agribusiness is subsidized to grow commodities like
wheat, corn and rice, not to feed people but to store and trade. According to
Manning, agricultural research focuses on just these few crops and is profit
driven. Although he succeeds in drawing attention to critical problems caused by
agriculture, such as water pollution and malnutrition, he is pessimistic about
reform coming from political systems. He romantically advocates hunting animals
for food and hopes that such citizen movements like urban green markets and
organic farms can lead to better nutrition.

From Booklist
A growing body of somewhat controversial scholarship ties the beginnings of war
to the "culture of scarcity" that emerged with the invention, sometime in the
Neolithic era and probably in the eastern Mediterranean, of agriculture. Before
that, these theorists contend, humans lived as hunter-gatherers who were, far
from the common vision of the half-starved caveman, quite comfortable and
well-fed, because their diet was both varied and seasonal. The investment of
time and energy to grow a few crops led, paradoxically, to both great excess and
horrific want; when the crops failed, famine followed among people whose
population had swelled beyond the small tribes of the earlier peoples. These
theories are regularly bruited about at academic meetings, but rarely are they
the subject of popular writing (Daniel Quinn's 1992 novel Ishmael constitutes an
exception). Manning brings theory to life with well-crafted essays that cover
such diverse subjects as the Irish potato famine and the controversy over
bioengineered plants. Readable and well-researched, this book unsettles as it informs.

Product Details

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: North Point Press; 1st edition (January 13, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0865477132



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