Get 20M+ Full-Text Papers For Less Than $1.50/day. Start a 14-Day Trial for You and Your Team.

Learn More →

Hunger: The Biology and Politics of Starvation

Hunger: The Biology and Politics of Starvation By John R. Butterly and Jack Shepherd 352 pp, $29.95 Lebanon, NH, Dartmouth College Press, 2010 ISBN-13: 978-1-5846-5926-6 During the last few years, there has been an onslaught of books about the world food situation. Most predict deteriorations in food supplies, higher food prices, increasing hunger, and related human effects. Some conclude that the world will be unable to feed future generations, with mass starvation as the likely outcome. Large fluctuations in food prices during the last few years have provided support for such ill-conceived conclusions. Books that predict widespread disaster probably get more attention and sell better than those with a more balanced, evidence-based perspective, but they also spread misinformation and contribute to inappropriate action. Having read many of these books, it was refreshing to read one that does not predict a food apocalypse but rather provides a balanced and evidence-based description of the existing hunger problem and suggests workable solutions without great fanfare. In contrast to most other recent books on food and hunger issues, Hunger: The Biology and Politics of Starvation provides a solid explanation of the biological foundation for hunger and nutrition. Authors John Butterly and Jack Shepherd advance a most interesting perspective on the biological basis for individual and political behavior, a perspective often lacking in any of the political science books covering the behavior of policy-makers. The authors address the theory of hunger and starvation and discuss several such theories, ranging from acts of God to acts of man (or failure to act by either). The authors do an excellent job of illustrating the close relationships between hunger and health—relationships important for solving hunger and malnutrition problems but often overlooked in a world in which health, nutrition, and food policy tend to be isolated, each in its own compartment. To be successful, efforts to solve hunger and malnutrition problems must be undertaken within a multidisciplinary framework. Drawing on evidence from several disciplines, the authors aim to be comprehensive, covering a large set of issues related to hunger, from climate change to metabolism. It is therefore not surprising that some issues are covered only superficially. For example, a section on the response by governments and international agencies is limited to a discussion of food aid—a rather unimportant component of the needed policy action. Similarly, a section on genetically modified organisms deviates from the evidence-based content of the book by taking a strong, unsubstantiated position against such organisms. Equating food security with food self-sufficiency further confuses the prescriptions for change, and suggesting that the stockpiling of food is less expensive than emergency food operations is misleading. Despite these minor but notable deficiencies, Hunger: The Biology and Politics of Starvation should be required reading for students, researchers, and project implementers with an interest in hunger alleviation, irrespective of their disciplinary background. With an emphasis on the interaction between biology and politics, the authors provide a constructive, evidence-based, and comprehensive analysis of hunger in all its dimensions. Back to top Article Information Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The author has completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and reported receiving grants from the Gates Foundation and the National Science Foundation; royalties from various books published; and travel, accommodations, and meeting expenses unrelated to activities listed for various presentations on a regular basis. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png JAMA American Medical Association

Hunger: The Biology and Politics of Starvation

JAMA , Volume 306 (10) – Sep 14, 2011

Hunger: The Biology and Politics of Starvation

Abstract

By John R. Butterly and Jack Shepherd 352 pp, $29.95 Lebanon, NH, Dartmouth College Press, 2010 ISBN-13: 978-1-5846-5926-6 During the last few years, there has been an onslaught of books about the world food situation. Most predict deteriorations in food supplies, higher food prices, increasing hunger, and related human effects. Some conclude that the world will be unable to feed future generations, with mass starvation as the likely outcome. Large fluctuations in food prices during the last...
Loading next page...
 
/lp/american-medical-association/hunger-the-biology-and-politics-of-starvation-0lOgPo0uZ7
Publisher
American Medical Association
Copyright
Copyright © 2011 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.
ISSN
0098-7484
eISSN
1538-3598
DOI
10.1001/jama.2011.1303
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

By John R. Butterly and Jack Shepherd 352 pp, $29.95 Lebanon, NH, Dartmouth College Press, 2010 ISBN-13: 978-1-5846-5926-6 During the last few years, there has been an onslaught of books about the world food situation. Most predict deteriorations in food supplies, higher food prices, increasing hunger, and related human effects. Some conclude that the world will be unable to feed future generations, with mass starvation as the likely outcome. Large fluctuations in food prices during the last few years have provided support for such ill-conceived conclusions. Books that predict widespread disaster probably get more attention and sell better than those with a more balanced, evidence-based perspective, but they also spread misinformation and contribute to inappropriate action. Having read many of these books, it was refreshing to read one that does not predict a food apocalypse but rather provides a balanced and evidence-based description of the existing hunger problem and suggests workable solutions without great fanfare. In contrast to most other recent books on food and hunger issues, Hunger: The Biology and Politics of Starvation provides a solid explanation of the biological foundation for hunger and nutrition. Authors John Butterly and Jack Shepherd advance a most interesting perspective on the biological basis for individual and political behavior, a perspective often lacking in any of the political science books covering the behavior of policy-makers. The authors address the theory of hunger and starvation and discuss several such theories, ranging from acts of God to acts of man (or failure to act by either). The authors do an excellent job of illustrating the close relationships between hunger and health—relationships important for solving hunger and malnutrition problems but often overlooked in a world in which health, nutrition, and food policy tend to be isolated, each in its own compartment. To be successful, efforts to solve hunger and malnutrition problems must be undertaken within a multidisciplinary framework. Drawing on evidence from several disciplines, the authors aim to be comprehensive, covering a large set of issues related to hunger, from climate change to metabolism. It is therefore not surprising that some issues are covered only superficially. For example, a section on the response by governments and international agencies is limited to a discussion of food aid—a rather unimportant component of the needed policy action. Similarly, a section on genetically modified organisms deviates from the evidence-based content of the book by taking a strong, unsubstantiated position against such organisms. Equating food security with food self-sufficiency further confuses the prescriptions for change, and suggesting that the stockpiling of food is less expensive than emergency food operations is misleading. Despite these minor but notable deficiencies, Hunger: The Biology and Politics of Starvation should be required reading for students, researchers, and project implementers with an interest in hunger alleviation, irrespective of their disciplinary background. With an emphasis on the interaction between biology and politics, the authors provide a constructive, evidence-based, and comprehensive analysis of hunger in all its dimensions. Back to top Article Information Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The author has completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and reported receiving grants from the Gates Foundation and the National Science Foundation; royalties from various books published; and travel, accommodations, and meeting expenses unrelated to activities listed for various presentations on a regular basis.

Journal

JAMAAmerican Medical Association

Published: Sep 14, 2011

There are no references for this article.