So my daughter goes to school and tells her teacher about The Future of Food. The teacher tells my daughter she has to watch the movie Food, Inc.
There isn't a free version of Food, Inc., on the internet, but you can watch it on Netflix.
They discuss a variety of issues that have been exacerbated by the industrialization of food:
- Nasty food-borne diseases. Kevin is the poster child for this, a boy who died from contaminated food. Legislation to prevent future occurrences of this tragedy has been batting around for years, now. But the film illustrates a now where the majority of food is processed in a handful of plants. The FDA has been stripped of the power to shut down such plants, presumably because to do so would have massive repercussions.
- Obesity. One in three individuals is obese. When we talk minorities and poor folks, it grows to one in two. The subsidized foods are cheap and 'easy,' and have been engineered to maximize appeal. So it is cheaper and easier to eat sugary, fattening foods than to eat vegetables. Nuts!
- Illegal immigration. The highly mechanized, significantly subsidized US grain supply has put many farmers in other nations out of business, particularly once the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) prevented Mexico and Canada from retaining protective tariffs. Food industries, e.g., slaughterhouses, recruit across the border and bring in illegal workers.
- Indentured servitude for farmers. Since there are so few markets for food, now, those markets can demand conditions. Like making farmers buy the latest equipment ($250,000 per chicken shed, for example). Upgrades (at profit to the industry) become mandatory as a condition of keeping the contract with the buyer. Per the film, a poultry farmer with two chicken sheds would have a debt of $500,000 for the sheds along, and only net $18,000 per year out of which that debt must be paid.
Interests of the food industry are protected by the US government. The movie presents a nice montage of executives who have worked for key food companies (e.g., Monsanto) and for the highest levels of government, under both parties.
But despite the crushing dominance of this mechanized food system, the film offers hope. It shows how customer demand for organics is causing Walmart to start carrying organics. And the film ends with a hopeful note, showing how we can "vote," at least three times a day, to make a difference.
The movie went to wrap before the most recent food crisis, arguably a major contributor to civil unrest in Egypt and other countries (though Twitter and Facebook have no doubt contributed).
With this same civil unrest causing increased risk to petroleum resources, it will be interesting to see what happens in the US to the price of gas and a food industry that is so completely dependent upon petroleum to fertilize, harvest, transport, and process food.
I suggest this movie as a holistic explanation of the 2010+ US food market. Much becomes clear after seeing this.
My daughter's teacher will be using Friday's class time to show Food, Inc., to her health students. I project several of those students will commit to an all organic diet, if not become full-out vegans, as a result of Friday's showing.