The Global Food Economy: The Battle for the Future of Farming.


224 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-84277-795-4
DDC 338.1





Reviewed by John R. Abbott

John Abbott is a professor of history at Laurentian University’s Algoma University College. He is the co-author of The Border at Sault Ste Marie and The History of Fort St. Joseph.


Strip away the academic paraphernalia of parenthetical references, endnotes, and such jargon as the “meatification” of the food economy, and readers will recognize this treatise as a tract that invites them to join a Miltonian struggle between the forces of heaven and hell, good and evil. Tony Weis submits that control over the production and marketing of food is fast flowing into the hands of transnational corporations whose powers are vouchsafed by the World Trade Organization, itself the transnational creation of a few powerful nations whose politicians are under the thumbs of their corporate movers and shakers. The upshot, he writes, is “the systematic disarticulation of agriculture from ecosystems, communities, and even the authority of nation states.”


The details of his indictment are impressive in their compression and comprehension. “In their quest to increase markets and profits, agro-TNC’s are relentlessly forging input dependence and standardizing the nature of agricultural production, subjecting soaring farm animal populations to brutalizing treatment, toxifying soils and water and externalizing bonds between production and consumption, devalourizing labour and replacing it with technology and progressively appropriating control and surplus value from farmers and farm communities.” It is intriguing to contemplate, in the language and concepts of Weis’s indictment, a modern iteration of the Norman Yoke, the term of opprobrium that Gerrard Winstanley, the 17th-century Digger, used to cover the sin of landlordism in his time.


Weis contends that the “efficiency” arguments for industrial agriculture, though plausible, are fundamentally flawed in every pertinent respect: ecologically, nutritionally, socially. He calls for a return to the socially responsible and ecologically rational small-farm economy, where “small farmers … see themselves and have their livelihoods widely understood as an important part of building more socially just systems of production and sustaining healthy rural communities into the future.” This is little more than a faint hope. While small communities of the converted exist everywhere in the developed world, buying organics, contracting with small farmers for supplies of vegetables and eggs, they will remain small and as impotent as the Diggers in stimulating a hearts-and-mind revolution. Price and convenience will remain the pre-eminent market determinant.


Weis, Tony., “The Global Food Economy: The Battle for the Future of Farming.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed October 1, 2023,