Monday, November 16, 2009

Food, Inc. - You Can Change The World One Bite At A Time

Food, Inc. is a documentary about our industrial agricultural food system which shines some light on where our food comes from.I have long been aware of some of the abuses of factory farms, but much of the information in this documentary surprised and shocked me.

Food prices are largely determined by what our government subsidizes. Because corn and soy are so heavily subsidized, cattle are fed this diet almost exclusively instead of their natural diet of grass. This diet combined with overcrowding and unsanitary conditions leads to high rates of e coli. Chicken farms fare no better, conditions are cruelly overcrowded and birds are bred for tender meat, leaving some birds unable to even stand on their own. Sick and diseased birds lead to unhealthy food for consumers. Food laws do little to protect the consumer, and much to protect the industry.

The conditions of meat industry workers is appalling. Subsidized American corn prices force Mexican corn farmers out of business. Meat packing plants recruit in Mexico for desperate under paid workers living in constant fear of deportation. Immigration arrests a handful of workers daily, but does not go after the system which exploits them to process our cheap food.

I was not aware of the seed monopoly created by the patenting of genetic modifications. The vast majority of soybeans in this country are genetically modified to be resistant to pesticides used to control weeds. Farmers are not allowed to save seed, they must purchase from the industrial giants or risk a lawsuit for violating a patent. The small farmer who attempts to use non GMO seeds also risks legal action if their neighbor's seed happens to blow onto their land contaminating the crop and thereby violating the seed patent. It is virtually impossible for a small farmer to defend him or herself against these major companies. In fact, only a small handful of companies control the bulk of our food supply.

Agribusiness also relies on huge quantities of fossil fuels for production and transportation. The system is vulnerable to rising gas prices which cause food prices to spike, endangering millions. The system has very little resiliency.

These are just a few of the shocking facts uncovered in this documentary. I highly recommend seeing the whole movie and learning about our food supply and the effect on our health, our environment, workers, and our children.

Luckily, the news is not all bad. We can vote to change the system three times a day when we choose our meals. If we choose local, organic, whole food we vote with our fork. Industry will respond to consumer demand. A powerful example of this is the decline of the power of the tobacco industry as consumers became educated and aware and made healthier choices. We can also lobby our legislators to pass food safety laws which protect consumers.

The first step is awareness. The next step is action....



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