Friday, July 17, 2009

Big Dollars Control This Food Inc.

One way the smaller movie company tries to compete with their big brother type studio is to release a documentary, some of these are fascinating while others are meant to wake the viewer up. One such documentary is "Food, Inc." this movie is not just meant to wake you up, but enlighten you to just what it is you are eating today. Food, Inc. is an unflattering look inside America's corporate controlled food industry, the giants that run this number one money making industry don't want the people that they supple a product for, to get inside and see for themselves just what kind of conditions the product is prepared under.

Food, Inc., directed by Robert Kenner, gives America the chance to see just how their dinner is prepared, packaged and delivered to their grocery store. Kenner is an advocate for greater food safety and the film with commentary by Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma). Attempts to convince the public of the shortsightedness of the mega-corporations that dominate the food industry and their method of increasing profits often at the expense of public safety. Representatives from food-producing giants such as Monsanto, Smithfield, Tyson and Perdue that control our food supply were invited to be interviewed for the film but declined.

Interviewing farmers and ranchers, Kenner learned that they are mostly at the mercy of mega-corporations like Monsanto which have increased their share of the soybean market from 2% to 98% in the last decade. Monsanto developed and patented their own custom gene for soybeans and now threaten their customers with lawsuits for patent infringement if they save their own seeds to use the next year. The film observes that part of the reason why the food industry is so hard to regulate is that many of the government officials currently assigned to watchdog roles were once employed by the companies they now monitor and notes that FDA food inspections have plummeted from 50,000 in 1972 to 9,200 in 2006. Other subjects covered are the treatment of cows that are forced to eat corn instead of grass, and this diet of corn causes the cows to become infected with the E. Coli bacteria. The dreadful conditions of chickens that are kept in darkened houses (pens) designed to raise them, this has helped to develop chickens that grow bigger, faster and with more breast meat, before they are slaughtered. On that subject, Kenner interviews Carole Morrison who was unwilling to jam her chickens into these house without any sunlight and, as a result, had her contract canceled by a giant chicken conglomerate (Perdue) who refused to have any further business dealings with her. Also discussed are the growing rates of diabetes in young people, the soaring incidence of obesity, and the use of low paying illegal immigrants to work in the food processing industry.

In spite of the horror stories, however, Food, Inc. is not depressing and Kenner seems more interested in educating the public than frightening them. He shows that people can make a difference, he mentions the strangle hold the tobacco industry once had, as well as the efforts of an entrepreneur from Stonyfield Farms who sold his line of organic products to Wal-Mart and a Virginia farmer who insists on raising animals with dignity and respect.

It's hard to keep a balance in such a documentary, the story of one Hispanic family is important, everyday people must make choices of eating healthy or just eating. The one voice that will stick with me the longest is Barbara Kowalcyk, who works in Washington with her mother as an advocate for stricter laws. Her 2 1/2-year-old son Kevin died in 12 days from a virulent form of E. Coli after eating a hamburger while the family was on vacation. She doesn't want your sympathy, she is looking for a means to control an indifferent industry.

Seeing these big food conglomerates penning up animals hoof deep in their own excrement, chickens packed to the point of suffocation and force fed vitamins and antibiotics so they can be slaughtered in a shorter period of time will continue to stay with me, the one point I hope everyone takes from this film is why does my hamburger need to be mixed with Clorox to be safe for me to eat it?

I give Food, Inc. a 3 and on my avoidance scale I give it a 0, this is something that everyone should be talking about, see this movie and then demand that your elected officials make some hard laws for these companies to live up to, it's not just your health at risk, but theirs as well. We must make these companies conform to a higher standard in the preparation of our food.

Food, Inc. is rated PG for some Thematic Material and Disturbing Images
Running time is 1 hr. 34 mins.

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