Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Movie That Could Save Your Life

If you enjoy horror films, you will like the documentary, Food, Inc.

Although I knew much of the information that was covered in the movie from years of reading the alternative press, it is different to know it with your eyes, on a theatre-sized screen. The footage of the poultry houses, the chicken processing plants, the feed lots, and the pig slaughter houses were strong enough to make the point about the perils of factory food without any explanation.

The premise of Food, Inc., is that multi-national fast-food corporations are dictating farm policy. Because they are the biggest purchasers of beef, chicken, potatoes, etc., they exert enormous pressure on the government, which writes the farm bill to cater to their needs. Thus, corn is subsidized to the degree that it sells for less than it costs to produce it. It makes corn so cheap that food producers look for ways to use it in everything. That's why it is hard to buy anything without some form of corn being listed on the label, though you may not recognize it. And of course, the meat producers feed it to their animals. It makes them fat. It also is the main reason that e-coli has become the problem that it is. Cattle are not meant to eat grain. They are designed to flourish on grass. Feeding them grain is what causes most of the new e-coli that has been killing people.

Independent farmer Joel Salatin was interviewed and pointed out how the whole philosophy of factory farming is geared to efficiency and supporting the system that is in place. He said that they never ask "Why?". Because of this flawed philosophy, when confronted with the e-coli problem, instead of feeding the cattle grass, they manufacture a filler for ground beef that is laced with ammonia to kill the e-coli.

The role that subsidized corn plays in our healthcare costs was explored. The consumer is confronted with the contradiction of junk food being cheap, and real food being expensive, all because government subsidies skew the marketplace. The skyrocketing rates of diabetes among the poor are attributed to this.

The movie took on Monsanto and the ramifications of its seed patenting, interviewing farmers who had been sued by the giant chemical corporation. Being able to patent a seed is new. Until Monsanto did this, all seeds were public. The patent means that farmers can not save seed from year to year. Monsanto has been relentless in suing farmers on patent infringement. Even the innocent ones give up, because they can not afford the legal fees.

My biggest disappointment in the movie was that the dairy industry was not covered at all. Food, Inc., would have been the perfect vehicle to get the word out about the dangers of factory dairy products, pasteurization, and homogenization. Again, we have government policy dictating how the food is produced, with disastrous consequences. Maybe there will be a sequel to Food, Inc., that exposes this. Until then, if you do not know the problems, visit the Campaign for Raw Milk page, a project of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

I was also disappointed in the coverage of the new mass-produced organic products. The movie producers missed an opportunity to show how differently some organic foods are made. For instance, organic meat can be grain-fed or grass-fed. The same goes for dairy cows. The grassfed is healthier for you. The movie barely touched on the fact that independent organic food companies are being bought out by multinational corporations. They did not talk about how this affects the product.

Food, Inc., is an important movie. I think it can change lives. Naturally, its greatest impact will be on those who have not done a great deal of reading on the topic. That's why I am so excited about it, because putting the information in a movie format will reach so many people who would never take the time to research it on their own. Go see it. Take your children with you. And eat before you go. You may not want to after the movie.


Fotofule said...

Since I can't watch the movie (yet) I pulled up a speech by Michael Pollan on youtube. He had some fascinating statistics. Can't wait to see the movie. And yes, I wish they had covered the dairy industry!

Wendy Haught said...

I'll look for the youtube you mentioned.

Is the movie coming to a theatre in Birmingham or do you have to wait for Netflix?