Movie Review: Food Inc. – Directed by Robert Kenner Oscar
That's one big bar code.
The movie Food Inc., released in 2008 criticizes the current methods of food cultivation and processing, especially in the American food industry, for being insensitive to the safety of consumers. The documentary, directed by Robert Kenner Oscar also touches on how other factors such as the income of consumers affect what they eat and the inverse relationship between the profit of food producers and food safety.
Kenner starts his movie by tracing the changes in the structure of the food industry over the years. He explains how the reduction in the number farmers and the corresponding increase in the size of each farm have made the few food manufacturers very powerful and influential. In addition to this, he mentions the desire for efficiency in food cultivation and production at the expense of quality is responsible for the problems associated with food safety today. For example, feeding animals on corn rather than grass to increase yield, and reduce cost have led to an increase in the prevalence of virulent forms and drug resistant strains of pathogens such as E-coli. Another cause of antibiotic resistance that Kenner does not detail in his documentary is the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animal farming. These pathogens are easily transferred to consumers through contaminated food.
As shown in Kenner’s movie, slaughter houses prefer to use labor that is cheap, easy to control, and are unaware of their rights to disclose the unhealthy practices. As concerned consumers, this practice raises our eyebrows on the undue power of food companies and the quality of meat that comes out from these slaughter houses. The refusal of two giant food processing companies (Tyson and Mausanto) to comment in the movie may show the lack of transparency in the dealings of these food companies.
The interest of the food industry on genetically modified foods according to Kenner has not been approached with enough evidence and regulation. He casted examples of farms with non-genetically engineered soya bean, contaminated with genetically engineered soya bean. This cross contamination of natural foods with genetically modified genes is well known to pose a threat to consumers that are allergic to genetically modified foods.
Kenner also highlights the challenges in food regulation and government policies that compromise the quality of food.. Kenner uses the failure of the United States Department of Agriculture to secure the legal backing to shut down food plants that had their product test consistently positive for E. coli to support his assertion that the system of food production and regulation protects the industry more than consumers.
Kenner emphasized how consumers assume that every food is healthy, and remains disconnected and ignorant about the source and process of food manufacture. We consider his point to be of great importance. If eating is a personal behavior, consumers also have a role to play in choosing to eat what is healthy and demand accountability from the food industry.
The major problem with this film is that it spends a great deal of time expressing strong claims and making anecdotal assertions, and yet supports these claims with little or no data. For example, in explaining the dangers associated with E. coli outbreaks, the film cited the death of a young boy and his food advocate mother after they consumed E. coli contaminated beef. We agree that this is an effective way to put a face on the problem, but the remainder of the section on health presents no epidemiological data on of the prevalence or incidence of E. coli cases. The only piece of data they report is that putting a cow back on a grass diets rids 80% of the E. Coli from their gut without further indicating the source of this information. Also, a great part of the film focuses on Monsanto and genetically modified soybeans. Although there is some academic literature reviewing the health effects of consuming GMO soybean products, the film makes no mention of this data. Their criticisms of Monsanto for patenting its genetically modified seeds, while not, without merit, are not very compelling without a discussion of why eating GMO soybeans are bad for health in the first place.
The main thesis that the film presents for positive change in the system, aside from advising people to vote with their forks, is that big food business can be healthy and profitable. This may be true, but their evidence for this is based on the success of the organic food movement. The two problems they do not discuss are: the fact that there are multiple definitions of the term “organic” with different standards about what “organic” means; and that, to date, not a single nutritional research study has conclusively shown that organic foods are any healthier than non-organic foods. Without this evidence, the central thesis of the film remains unconvincing. The same goes for assertions that Trans-Fats and High Fructose Corn Syrup are unhealthy while reviewing no evidence to support this assertion..
Kenner also created the impression that every food item on the market is contaminated. This would rather scare consumers. Kenner could have communicated the risks of food contamination by making his message more consumer-friendly. Also, food production is not the only stage of food contamination, poor domestic storage of food for example could also make food unwholesome. However Kenner did not talk about this in his documentary.
In closing, it should be emphasized that although we argue that this film presents little evidence to support its claims, it nevertheless succeeds as activism. Food, Inc. is best described as an invitation to the viewer to conduct further research and begin asking questions. In that sense, this film deserves credit.
Reviewed by Dan Purnell, MPH candidate and Paul Ashigbie, MPH ’11.
Reaction Paper - Food Inc.
My reaction to, and thoughts about, the documentary 'Food Inc.'
Food Inc. 2008. Robert Kenner and Participant Media.
For this reaction paper, I viewed the documentary 'Food Inc.' which explores, in depth, the inner workings of the modern food industry to identify the ways in which food production has changed. Today, our food is often marketed as being "Farm Fresh," which gives consumers the idea that farms still look like they did in the 1930s and 1940s. However, this is not the case. Modern food production appears to be more of a factory than an idealistic farm setting. Thousands of chickens are packed into dark, poorly ventilated houses, hundreds of thousands of cattle are stocked in dry feed lots, and fruits and vegetables don't have growing seasons any more because of genetic engineering. Doesn't this seem wrong?
Food safety and production is an issue that I hold very near to my heart, and this documentary discusses this. Food Inc. goes into detail about how the food industry has become oligopolistic, that is, run by just a few major companies. This is because those companies have developed some sort of edge - via technology, marketing, etc. - which has allowed them to become very successful. Due to this success, they seek out large-scale providers of ingredients necessary to make their products and control the quality of those products, forcing smaller businesses with less say in the matter to comply. This sort of corruption is similar to what has occurred with genetic engineering. I have written multiple papers on the topic, including one last semester, and through my research I have found that the situation is very much the same. In that market, "big buck" companies develop and patent genetically engineered seeds which are in high demand. Due to the patents, however, small farmers cannot compete and are often run out of business because the products they can provide are not in high demand.
Another issue that I care deeply about is the issue of animal welfare. In the English class which I took this semester I wrote a paper on animal welfare, and my research only made me care more about the issue. In the food production industry, the major corporations which control the quality of the products being produced by major providers care only about profit, and not the well being of the animals they are producing. One example in Food Inc. related to chickens. The chickens produced by big corporations such as Tyson and Perdue have engineered the chickens to grow to four times the size of a normal chicken in half the time. Though the skin and muscle have been designed to grow very quickly and efficiently, the bones and internal organs of these modified chickens can not keep up. The documentary showed several clips of these mutant chickens taking a few steps and then having to lay back down because their bodies can not support their weight. This is appalling. Production animals everywhere are suffering so these corrupted companies can dominate the market and keep turning profits.
This documentary has presented issues which relate to classes I have taken in the past, but they relate to Science and Global Change as well. One of these issues relates to climate change. The aforementioned massive corporations only produce mostly-corn-fed animals. In order to produce the corn necessary to feed these animals, the corn must be planted, fertilized, harvested, and transported, and all of these actions contribute to global warming through the production of greenhouse gases. Also, many major production animals such as cattle are not "designed" evolutionarily to efficiently consume and digest corn. They most efficiently digest forage. This indigestion causes for an increased production of gases, particularly methane. This is already known to be a greenhouse gas with a large impact on climate change and global warming. A large portion of Science and Global Change's curriculum for this semester consisted of learning about how human action is impacting our Earth's climate. Food Inc. relates to this in that it discusses how society's actions pertaining to food production are detrimental to our planet.
Overall I found this documentary to be very effective. I think that it covered all of the major aspects of the food production industry and did a good job of pointing out the flaws with each of these aspects. It simplified some of the more complicated components of the industry and made it easy for the audience to comprehend the messages it was trying to convey. However, I do believe it could be made more effective by tying all of the information together better, as well as by providing more of a "So what?" component. All of the sections are well developed but I found it hard to relate them to one another. I also think that, though they did very effectively point out many of the major issues existing in the food industry, the audience could be made to feel more powerful by making them feel as though they have the power to change the issues at hand.