Factory food sickens humans, livestock and the environment
By Rady Ananda
What we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the last 10,000. So asserts Robert Kenner’s new film, FOOD, Inc., which opens nationwide June 19th. The vast bulk of food production is now controlled by just a few mega-corporations with one value: profit. Relying on genetic engineering, pesticides and antibiotics, factory food is cheap, requiring little land. But the external costs to our health, the environment and the natural food industry are enormous.
Director: Robert Kenner
Producers: Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein
Co-Producer: Eric Schlosser
Released by Magnolia Pictures, with Participant Media and River Road Entertainment
FOOD, Inc. is the single most important film of the decade. Transcending hype and industry muzzling, the film exposes some of the cruel and unnatural aspects of industrial farms and food processing. It links epidemic rates of US obesity and diabetes with our intake of genetically engineered food.
NPR called it this summer’s “suspense thriller.” The film condemns how workers and animals are abused. Illegal immigrants, who cannot complain about working conditions, comprise most of the workers at industrial food plants. They are vulnerable to raids and deportation. No corporate executives are arrested.
Well researched and well scored, the film debunks the pastoral fantasy spin. Industrial food is not grown, raised or processed on a farm. The animals see no sunshine, are kept immobile in cages, and are genetically or chemically modified. Those that are somewhat mobile are bioengineered to plump their bodies faster than their bones and muscles can support. They flop helplessly to the floor when trying to move.
Featured in the film is Barbara Kowalcyk, whose toddler died from E. coli. “We put faith in our government to protect us, and we’re not being protected at the most basic level.”
She has since become a food safety advocate, fighting to give the USDA back its power to shut down plants that repeatedly produce contaminated meats.
That’s not likely to happen given that Monsanto lawyers now head Obama’s ‘food safety’ team, and are currently tweaking a slew of bills that will hyper-regulate small, independent farmers out of business. Monsanto, Tyson, Smithfield and Purdue all declined to be interviewed for the film.
Private food production, churches, and raw milk producers are being criminalized. Even saving seeds has been criminalized. And if laws aren’t enough, these multi-national corporations file frivolous lawsuits that put independent farmers out of business.
FOOD exposes what industrial food is doing to us, and shows that these effects are being hidden from us. Monsanto has fought vigorously to oppose labeling of GMO food. It is illegal to take pictures of factory farms.
The film asserts that consumers can change how industry operates by choosing organic and buying from local farmers, and even by growing small gardens. Wal-Mart stopped carrying milk with r-BGH, a bovine growth hormone that causes mastitis, necessitating antibiotics, which humans then consume. r-BGH has been linked to cancer.
Well known in the safe-food movement, co-producer Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma) impacted the film’s direction. There’s no limit to health and environmental implications from factory farms, and dozens of significant facts are presented.
But the most credible speakers are the independent farmers, especially Joel Salatin of Virginia:
“When you add up the environmental costs, societal costs, health costs, industrial food is not honest. It’s not priced honestly. It’s not produced honestly. There’s nothing honest about that food.”
We watch animals roam freely, and cows eating grass, which their bodies can digest (instead of corn). This is juxtaposed with a horrific scene with a live cow that has had its side opened. A scientist sticks his hand into the rumen to remove the indigestible food.
Instead of manure lagoons that factory farms need (since their animals are caged 24-7), farmers explain that free-roam cattle manure is dealt with naturally.
Flooded manure lagoon (USDA)
The most important implication of our food supply is the health consequences on our nation. This is where moviegoers will sit up and pay attention:
One in three Americans born after 2000
will contract early onset diabetes.
This is because 70% of our food contains genetically modified organisms – from milk to ketchup to snacks to meat, and nearly everything that is sweetened. Factory farms bring this to us as food filler – a way to make a buck while sickening the public, our animals, and the environment.
Another implication is that concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) invite the development and rapid spread of diseases, as compared to free-range animal operations. A recent New Scientist article supports these assertions.
“The conditions in which animals are kept can favour the evolution of new and deadlier strains.
“For instance, in the wild, nasty flu strains that make animals too ill to walk or fly are unlikely to spread far. On crowded factory farms, they can spread like wildfire, helped by the global trade in animals and animal products.”
FOOD does not explore the implications of the global food trade. It does not mention Codex, a set of agreements that supercede a nation’s food safety laws. Save that for Part II. This film just talks about what the U.S. is being fed, and how it’s created.
Most Americans can take in one sitting this excellent exposé of our centralized food system. Saving the most important point for last:
You can vote to change the system…
three times a day.