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Food for a Finite Planet

By 2050, the world population is expected to reach nine billion. And the challenge of feeding this rapidly growing population is being made greater by climate change, which will increasingly wreak havoc on the way we produce our food. At the same time, we have lost touch with the soil—few of us know where our food comes from, let alone how to grow it—and we are at the mercy of multinational corporations who control the crops and give little thought to the damage their methods are inflicting on the planet. Our very future is at risk.
In Consumed, Sarah Elton walks fields and farms on three continents, not only investigating the very real threats to our food, but also telling the little-known stories of the people who are working against time to create a new and hopeful future. From the mountains of southern France to the highlands of China, from the crowded streets of Nairobi to the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, we meet people from all walks of life who are putting together an alternative to the omnipresent industrial food system. In the arid fields of rural India we meet a farmer who has transformed her community by selling organic food directly to her neighbors. We visit a laboratory in Toronto where scientists are breeding a new kind of rice seed that they claim will feed the world. We learn about Italy’s underground food movement; how university grads are returning to the fields in China, Greece, and France; and how in Detroit, plots of vacant land planted with kale and carrots can help us see what’s possible.
Food might be the problem, but as Elton shows, it is also the solution. The food system as we know it was assembled in a few decades—and if it can be built that quickly, it can be reassembled and improved in the same amount of time. Elton here lays out the targets we need to meet by the year 2050. The stories she tells give us hope for avoiding a daunting fate and instead help us to believe in a not-too-distant future when we can all sit at the table.

360 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2013

Biological Sciences: Conservation, Ecology

Economics and Business: Economics--Agriculture and Natural Resources

Food and Gastronomy


“If our industrial food system leaves you feeling a little queasy, Sarah Elton has just the medicine you need: a powerfully hopeful account of the gathering efforts to take down our ‘too-big-to-fail’ agribusiness empire and replace it with something that makes sense for our planet and our communities!”

Bill McKibben, author of Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist

“A terrific new book.”

Michael Pollan | @michaelpollan

“The optimism that Sarah Elton shows about feeding the growing population of the world—which she anticipates will reach 9 billion by 2050—shines forth from every page of Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Meticulously researched and carefully written. . . . An enlightening and worthy read. Highly recommended.”

K. M. Monks, University of Idaho | Choice

Table of Contents

Introduction: Countdown to the Future of Food

Target 2020: Soil

Chapter 1: Table for One Billion

To See Our Future, Visit Sunny India

Chapter 2: Faster, Bigger, Richer, Weaker

The Trouble with the Green Revolution

Chapter 3: The Money Knot

Food Prices, Profits, and the New Global Food Trade

Chapter 4: Local versus Industrial

The Alternative Economy of Food

Chapter 5: The Twenty-First-Century Peasant

But Who Will Grow Our Food?

Chapter 6: Land as Good as Gold

Mega-Parks, Mega-Farms, and the Global Rush for Farmland

Target 2030: Seeds

Chapter 7: Two Thousand Years of Rice

What China Knows That We Don’t

Chapter 8: The Genes in Our Seeds

The Big Business of Food Security

Chapter 9: Lab Rice

A Better Seed for a Hotter Planet

Chapter 10: SOS

Save Our Seeds

Target 2040: Culture

Chapter 11: From Home-Cooked to Takeout

A Culture of Food for the Future

Chapter 12: The Terrorists to the Rescue!

The Pope of Aligot and the French Culinary Resistance

Chapter 13: Culinary Biodiversity

You Are What Your Ancestors Ate

Chapter 14: Introducing…Food

The Culture Shift

Conclusion: Target 2050

The Future



Selected Bibliography



Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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