The movie "Food, Inc." opens in several cities, including Los Angeles, on Friday. It's a critical look at the way food in the United States is produced. ("You'll never want to eat again," commented a colleague who's seen the movie already.)
Food, Inc. decries our processed-food diets, industrial farming, hormone-fed animals, cloned meat, genetic engineering and more.
A Reuters story describes how the food industry is fighting back against the movie, partly via websites of its own, such as one called safefoodinc.com, run by meat and poultry producers. You can see movies there too, with riveting titles such as "Turkey Production and Processing."
In an Associated Press story, director Robert Kenner suggests small ways in which individuals can change their habits to make a difference: "Go to a farmers market whenever you can. Eat a little less meat. Read labels when you go into a store. Shop the outer rows of the supermarket. Cook at home. Buy less processed food."
Adds author Michael Pollan, "Get involved in your school lunch program. Get junk food out of the whole school. Sign up with a listserv for one of the many groups that’s tracking this. Your congressman/woman needs to hear from you."
Clearly, we're eating in terrible ways in this country, and there are so many things that facilitate that, starting with our genetic predisposition to love high-calorie foods and to revel in variety, plus an industry that caters very efficiently to those desires: There are 47,000 products in a modern supermarket, according to the movie. Such temptation! And because of the way food prices are structured, some of the least healthful, most caloric choices are the cheapest.
And so many questions. It would be great if a local-food, everyone-eats-organic, no-pesticide way of farming could still get everyone on the planet fed. Maybe it could, but has anyone done the math? And does the movie mix in legitimate concerns with fears that aren't grounded in science? For example, a lot of data suggest that so-called cloned meat -- actually, meat from regular cattle whose fathers were clones -- is no different than "normal" meat. So, leaving aside the "yuck" factor and animal welfare issues for a moment, is there a food safety issue with cloning? And are organic farms less -- or more -- likely to give us E.coli or salmonella? I'd really like to know.
-- Rosie Mestel
Editor's note: For a fast-food-joint chat with director Robert Kenner, see Brand X: What really goes into the bag: behind the movie 'Food, Inc.'
Photo Credit: Pat Wellenbach / Associated Press