Published on June 11th, 2009 | by Greg0
The Food (Inc.) Dilemma: Documentary Explores Impact of Grocery Store Decisions
In a society where the end result of our food arrives on pristine shelves but is increasingly mysterious in origin, documentaries like Food, Inc. are just as shocking for illuminating these origins as for illuminating how gruesome these origins can sometimes be. With the help of Fast Food Nation’s Eric Schlosser and the perspectives of farmers, advocates and food gurus alike, Food, Inc. takes a good look at the full impact of our food purchases.
Certainly each day-to-day decision on food is a choice. We vote with our pocketbook for healthy, organic, local, not. But along the way it’s sometimes hard to remember why you’re doing this to begin with. Food, Inc. shows the hows and whys on issues from food safety and industry standards to animal treatment and economic impact on small businesses. It shows the larger effects our diet choices have on society, the economy and the environment.
Food, Inc. starts off with a look at the farmers and the animals. A small history of genetic modification shows how truly different our food process has become when compared to our ancestors. Legislative issues and lobbying eventually rear their head and round out a pretty comprehensive and informative movie. Appearances from Stonyfield Farm founder Gary Hirshberg and Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan keep the movie interesting and the behind-the-scenes clips of chicken coops and meat processing plants gives a greater sense of the reality most of us have never come in contact with.
Eventually this film takes us on a history of the litigation, law, and lobbying that lead us to our current place. Copyright, such as the soybean seed copyright that Monsanto owns, unfurls in the usual series of litigation stories: large corporation sues nameless individual; individual can’t afford legal bills. Food Inc. also mentions a particularly nasty piece of legislation dubbed the “veggie libel law” which allowed Oprah to be sued for her on-TV outburst about “mad cow” disease and food safety. I’m not sure how this isn’t impingement on free speech and hasn’t been done away with long ago, but perhaps that is the point of the movie.
Wal-Mart makes an unexpected visit in this film, unexpected because they’re not part of the expose, but part of the solution — through their mass distribution of organic products. I would only imagine their media department doing flips over this movie, except that their scenes are somewhat subdued. It created what was perhaps the cutest moment in the movie, though, when a meeting occurred between Stonyfield Farm employees and somewhat awkward Wal-Mart employees. One Stonyfield Farm employee mentioned jubilantly that she had never shopped at Wal-Mart, having boycotted once and never stopped. The Wal-Mart employees took it in good stride.
Overall, this is a very recommendable film. People who have already read about food issues are likely to find more good information. People who haven’t read up on the issues now have their own nicely pre-packaged movie available for mass consumption in select theaters June 11.