From the Editor: November 2009
One Bite at a Time
By Kristy Nudds
In our July 2009 issue, I wrote about a movie being released in North
America entitled Food Inc. and encouraged readers to see it if they
were able to. It had limited playing in Canada, but is now available
In our July 2009 issue, I wrote about a movie being released in North America entitled Food Inc. and encouraged readers to see it if they were able to. It had limited playing in Canada, but is now available on DVD. I have finally had a chance to view the movie and would like to share my reaction.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Food Inc. From viewing the trailer online, I was expecting the movie to be unbalanced and display farming in a negative light. The movie was as balanced as it could be, given that many of the big agribusinesses criticized refused to be interviewed. The film did not attack farming practices directly, but rather the “industrial” system for which farmers grow products and that demands certain practices take place.
The filmmakers wisely chose not to focus on animal welfare, as the objective of the movie was not to show “how” food is raised, but how food has become a business controlled by a few very large, powerful companies who “own” food right from seed/embryo/egg to shelf, the “centralization” of power – hence the title of the film.
It’s important to note that the film focuses on the U.S. food system; however, there are some similarities that exist in our system, particularly with respect to the GMO crops and how they are controlled. Nonetheless, numerous Canadians will watch this movie not realizing this, and we need to be aware of this distinction.
What I couldn’t help thinking during the film is how fortunate Canadian poultry producers are, and will our Canadian consumers understand that poultry raised in Canada is not how it is depicted in the film? It was difficult to watch the plight of one American chicken farmer and to hear her discuss integration and its effect on farmers and their incomes. It was yet another example of why consumers need to understand that the supply management system is critical to the future of their dinner table and agriculture in Canada.
To its credit, the film explores how U.S. Farm Bills and subsidies have allowed for the overproduction of corn and its sale at below cost of production to food manufacturers, giving manufacturers “permission,” in a sense, to produce cheap, non-nutritional food such as soft drinks and candy. But as a U.S. corn and soybean grower says in the movie, “we will deliver to the marketplace what the market wants.”
He, like the producers of the film, aims to empower the consumer to change the system “one bite at a time.” I have to say that I enjoyed this aspect of the film because I’m in favour of ending consumer ignorance. North Americans pay the least amount for food, and they like it that way. They are appalled that little farms don’t dot the countryside, yet for years no one looked around them, and complained when prices went up.
The most significant component of the film was the inadequacy of food safety regulation. The film correctly points out that decreased funding to food safety agencies and the self-policing of standards by companies are major contributing factors. Transparency is questioned, as it is pointed out that many in high-ranking positions in the FDA and USDA are former bureaucrats or lobbyists for agribusiness.
Overall, the film was not as one-sided as I had expected, and is definitely worth a watch, as it’s sure to be popular, especially among youth. As I said in July, the film may point out aspects of agriculture that may need revisiting, and I think it does.