This weekend my husband and I watched, Food, Inc. a well-done documentary, if a bit limited in scope. The basic premise of promoting consumer awareness about the origins of the foods we buy is a good one. The work done by Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan in this area is undeniably the most important food-related consumer-awareness promotion of recent years. Their combined written works and films have given us a body of information on this subject that no longer allows us to claim ignorance.
Food, Inc. takes us through the agricultural factory system now in place in the United States. The idea that food comes from pretty, little farms is, of course, proven to be a conceived national mythology of the worst sort. The majority of food now comes from factory farms which bare little resemblance to the farms of yore or the farms prominently featured on most food packaging.
For those of us, who already know about CAFO’s and Monsanto, the film was just another stunning reminder, a renewed slap in the face, of the incredible importance of fighting this system. Fighting seems a strong term, but really, it is a fight. I fight with my compost and garden tools. Others fight with their reusable shopping bags at the farmer’s market.
Unfortunately, the fight is often seen as a Starbucks/liberal elitist fight against the masses. But, truly, it is the opposite. The food that is sold to lower-income communities in this country is abominable. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would think that the food factories made a deal with the health factories to keep them supplied with diabetic, overweight people far into the future.
For the future to be different, food will have to be different. Food Inc. should be required viewing for every citizen or, at least, for every student. It is imperative that this system be uprooted. And this is where I think the film could have done better. The solutions are a brief afterthought. A common problem with the environmental movement and many movements in general: here are the problems, they are terrible, it will take a monumental effort to change them…buy local and organic. While I don’t disagree with buying local and organic, it’s my preferred method as well, I want to hear about more options and more ways to change our food system.
Also, Food, Inc. did not do enough to highlight the environmental degradation caused by our current agricultural system. In the words of one of my most favorite historical figures, George Washington Carver, “A nation can only last as long as its topsoil.” The current system is quickly destroying our nation’s topsoil with no remedies in place for the future.
All in all, Food, Inc. is another valuable asset to the stock library of food education. I hope that those who need to see it most will be given the opportunity.
p.s. I've included some of my favorite food awareness reading and viewing in my Amazon picks.