April 07, 2010

Food, Inc.

Some things to remember when viewing a documentary: 1) Images can often be manipulated out of their original context; 2) Use of music and editing techniques can heighten the emotional wallop of a scene in the documentary to manipulate the viewer 3) since a documentary is not a research paper, the filmmakers aren't really required to "cite their sources" or even explain beyond any doubt the facts they present and the arguments they make.

That being said, I highly encourage everyone to see Food, Inc. It's a powerful examination of the food industry in America. I listed the above criteria for viewing documentaries because I think it's absolutely important to remember that everyone has an agenda--even the seemingly well-meaning documentarian, and so it's not enough to simply swallow everything you're fed (pun intended, obviously). However, the claims made in this movie are provocative, and the evidence presented in the movie very convincing. When I examined their points at face value, everything they argued (mainly, that the food industry is for the most part controlled by a handful of gigantic corporations more concerned with making money than making healthy food that respects animals, the environment, and the consumers) seemed very straight-forward and common-sensical.

I'm not a very adept economist or businessman, so I can't really examine the logistics of the food industry with much expertise. But I get (I understand, but do not necessarily support) why companies are trying to produce more food at less cost. However, it seems like the cost is not really that cheap...it may indeed be deadly.

Immediately, however, I am reminded that our current life expectancy in America continues to rise. On the other side of that argument, it seems that cancer is becoming more and more pervasive. Every time we turn around it seems, someone else we know is diagnosed with a type of cancer. I have to wonder if what we eat is a huge part of this problem.

Food, Inc. reaffirms some of the things a lot of us have already been thinking for a while: it's worth it to pay extra for milk retrieved from cows not being abused or fed weird chemicals; it's worth it to pay extra for vegetables at a farmers' market that were grown locally and support farmers who are trying do things right. It is quite ridiculous to gripe about the cost of vegetables if we're buying soda and fast food left and right.

Is Food, Inc. just promoting yet another anti-capitalist movement? I'm not sure. Someone being interviewed made a comment that "we're not going to get rid of capitalism fast enough for that to be the solution" (I'm paraphrasing). However, the narrator made the comment that the control our government has over the food industry is just a really insidious form of socialism. It would be better for everyone if this issue veered away from becoming another left vs. right debate. I think the pitfalls of capitalism AND socialism are problems we will always be dealing with. As the Wal-Mart execs say in the movie, the market will decide what they choose to sell. If we buy healthier products, companies like Wal-Mart and Publix will be only too happy to oblige us.

Before I give away everything, check out this movie, nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar this year.


Li said...

Good thoughts in here.

"Food, Inc." is one of my favorite movies from 2009 -perhaps THE favorite? Even so, I would second your advice about not taking things at face value from a documentary -or any film, any book, or any one.

Would like to point out that this next generation (supposedly known as Generation Z) is supposedly the first generation of Americans to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Scary.

I think "Food, Inc" and it's crew also made a good point as to denoting (at least in my opinion) that it isn't really a left or right issue, no matter how much we'd like it to be. There are those who think capitalism is evil, and there are those who think it's the answer to these problems.

Also, I would say that while government regulation started at as something to benefit Americans and the American economy, most of the regulations today seem like they're just a bunch of ridiculously high hoops, set in place to so that the big corporations can fly through and the little guy (be it locally-owned grocery stores or local farmers) gets trampled underfoot.

For a story about how the food industry is using our sense of smell against us ;) check out: http://www.wcpn.org/WCPN/news/30243/

Li said...

Link to the article that mentioned the shorter life expectancy:


And I believe this is the study mentioned in the article: