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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Food, Inc. - Are you hungry for change?

Aug 04, 2009 07:31PM
By Lisa Moore

Food Inc. a film more frightening than The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, should cleanse your palate of Big Agriculture and make you forever frown on Happy Meals. Director Robert Kenner explores the industrial food revolution from the 1940’s McDonalds-inspired fast food archetype to our present day supermarkets stocked with engineered “food.”

Any romantic notion of your food coming from beautiful, pastoral farms replete with bright red barns and John Deere tractors is soon erased as Kenner shines the spotlight on the handful of corporations that greedily control the growth, processing and  distribution of food in the US. It’s stunning to learn how food industry lawyers and lobbyists have taken over the government agencies responsible for policing the same companies for whom they worked.

The documentary features narratives by nutrition activists Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma) that are interspersed with interviews from farmers and ranchers. The use of creative and informative graphics make it easy to take in a wealth of varied information.

You may think twice about sinking your teeth into a mouth-watering KFC drumstick after seeing how inhumanely chickens are treated. Bred to be top heavy for their coveted white meat, they have a lifespan of only 6 weeks – growing so fast they can’t walk in their dark, cramped conditions.

Don’t choke on your genetically modified popcorn when you see that Bessie the cow is no longer grazing on grass in a green pasture. Instead she is fed government-underwritten corn while standing ankle-deep in manure in an overpopulated cattle farm, increasing our risk for E. coli, which makes 73,000 Americans ill each year.

Kenner follows Barbara Kowalcyk on a day of lobbying at the Capital for passage of a law named after her two-and-a-half-year-old son, Kevin, who died ten days after eating an E. coli tainted burger. "Kevin's Law" would give the FDA the power to close meat processors that distribute contaminated meat--a power it unbelievably doesn’t have.

Monsanto, a former chemical company that invented Agent Orange, has a patent on an herbicide-resistant custom gene in 90% of America’s soybeans, thus forcing farmers to buy seed from them each season. If a farmer grows soybeans outside Monsanto’s jurisdiction and some of the altered genes drift into his crop from neighboring fields, Monsanto will sue him for patent infringement. And because they have the money they will win, mercilessly breaking the lives of small farmers.

Health concerns don’t seem to be at the forefront of Big Agriculture, with obesity and diabetes reaching alarming rates. An estimated 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes. There’s a reason why a Big Mac costs less than a head of broccoli – and it has absolutely nothing to do with nutrition.

The Orozco family, workers exploited in the corporate food system, is forced to eat the very food it produces. Though they yearn for fresh vegetables and fruit, they don’t have the money or the time to eat it. Their fast food lifestyle has forced the father to spend hundreds of dollars each month on drugs for diabetes, and the youngest daughter is on her way to succumbing to Big Pharma as well.

Despite the gloom and disappointment, Food, Inc. does offer hope. Forward-thinking farmer Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farm in Virginia, insists he can produce "the best food in the world" as economically as large-scale farming. And Walmart, swayed by consumer demand, is stocking its shelves with organic products - an excellent reminder of the power we, as consumers, have.

The moral of this story is to take an active role in the food you consume. Know that every time you hear the blip of the supermarket scanner, you are casting a vote. Going for local, sustainable, slow food encourages the food industry to put the emphasis back where it belongs - on health. For more information, visit

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