Jane and I went to see Food, Inc. this weekend. It has a limited release, so if you are interested in seeing this film here is a list of its scheduled showings. (If you are in the Los Angeles area, it is playing at the NuArt in Santa Monica through Thursday, and will be at the Landmark in West LA starting the 19th.)
Since we went vegan, we've been doing a lot of reading about food. Sometimes it feels like all we do is talk about food: the way we eat, what we eat, why we changed our diet, where we get our protein, etc. So much of the information presented in this film was familiar to us, but still, it was a worthwhile experience. And some of the things we learned were truly shocking to us. For instance, there are laws in place in 13 states which protect food manufacturers from people making "disparaging comments" about their food products. Manufacturers are allowed to sue under libel laws. Colorado takes things even further by making veggie libel a criminal rather than civil offense. Frightening! I guess I'm just a little naïve here, but I would expect my government to protect me against the big corporations.
Robert Kennar does a good job touching on most aspects of the food industry. For example, the movie starts out by pointing out that the average supermarket sells 47,000 items but this is truly an illusion of diversity since 90% of the items contain corn and/or soy products, and there are only a few companies at the top level that manage agri-business in the United States. One farmer comments that the farmer's decision making process has been outsourced to the corporate boardroom. It's all about the bottom line, as opposed to good stewardship of the earth or animals.
Kennar takes you through a tour of what farming means today in America. And here we were feeling all good about ourselves for being vegan. What this movie says Monsanto does to the soy farmers makes me want to give up tofu entirely. Monsanto, the manufacturers of Round-Up, have modified and patented "Round-Up" ready soybeans. As of 2006 90% of the soybeans produced in the US carry that gene. Monsanto aggressively protects their patent going so far as to prosecute farmer's who's crops have been cross-pollinated by neighboring farms. The people who were interviewed claim to have been persecuted by Monsanto, these include "seed cleaners" - Seed cleaners allow farmers to clean and store the seed from their fields to be replanted. The reason is that, according to patent laws, Monsanto owns the seeds since they own the genetically modified gene. Yikes! If you're interested in learning more about Monsanto, check out this video: The World According to Monsanto. (Here's a link if you'd like to buy The World According to Monsanto.)
The CEO of Stonyfield Farm, Gary Hirshberg, talks about how many of the eco-conscious companies are now owned by mega conglomerates. Tom's toothpaste is now owned by Colgate. Stonyfield is now owned by Groupe-Danone (that's Dannon to you and me). He also defends Stonyfield's decision to sell their organic yogurt to Wal Mart by pointing out that the positive pesticide impact can be measured in tons rather than pounds. So while many people decry Wal Mart as the evil empire, Hirshberg points to the environmental impact, and the fact that this allows more people access to organic foods at a lower price.
Although we don't expect this movie to be as successful as Super Size Me," Morgan Spurlock's McDonald's expose, we hope it will get some additional exposure. This message really needs to get out to the general population.
The movie doesn't touch on veganism at all, which was kind of surprising to me. I guess they were concerned their movie might be played in one of the 13 states with veggie libel laws. There is some exposure to CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). However, the "natural" farmer's method of slaughtering chickens didn't appear all that humane to me or Jane.
We give the movie two thumbs up. See it if you have any interest in food.
For Further Information:
- You can read more on the Veggie Libel Laws here:
- If you'd like to read more about Monsanto, Vanity Fair had a great article in February, 2008, called Monsanto's Harvest of Fear.
And there are plenty of interesting videos on YouTube.
- Bad Seed: The Truth About Our Food
- How To Monopolize Food - Monsanto Style Part 1
- How To Monopolize Food - Monsanto Style Part 2