On Friday night, I attended Nashville’s opening of Food, Inc. at The Belcourt Theater. The event was sponsored by Whole Foods and featured lots of snacks and a panel discussion with regional and local food advocates and growers.
Much of the information conveyed by the film was old news to me, but the interviews and stories were very compelling as was the graphic footage of both industrial animal and vegetable farms and slaughterhouses. It was so compelling, in fact, that I frequently had to cover my eyes (and even once wanted to stick my fingers in my ears).
But I already knew about sick cows being slaughtered along with healthy ones and the dangers of working in meat processing plants. What I didn’t know about, and consequently feel most enraged about right now, are the depths to which agricultural companies like Monsanto will go to hurt/subdue farmers. The story of Moe Parr, an old-school seed cleaner, broke my heart. Here’s a guy in his 70s, been cleaning seeds for farmers his whole life, who is sued by Monsanto for “encouraging farmers to commit copyright infringement.” You see, behemoths like Monsanto patent their seeds, and farmers who buy Monsanto seed are not allowed to clean and keep seed at the end of the harvest. Keeping the seed (which resulted from their own farming practices on their own fields) is illegal because Monsanto “owns” the idea of the seed, the patent for its genetic makeup. Moe Parr wasn’t even cleaning seed for Monsanto farmers, but the mere fact that his business exists in a world where Monsanto seed is used by 90% of farmers constitutes a threat. Moe eventually settled out of court with Monsanto due to his inability to continue paying legal fees–imagine that.
Other interviewees and personalities in the film include Barbara Kowalcyk food safety advocate who lost her son to E. coli; Joel Salatin, a philosopher farmer, who offers some delicious sound bytes on respect for food animals equating to respect for other human beings; the great food writer Michael Pollan; and Eric Schlosser of Fast Food Nation fame.
I encourage everyone to see this film. It will be eye-opening for many people and galvanizing for those of us already in the know. I, for one, don’t think I can eat meat of unknown original any longer. That means no meat in restaurants. My meat would have to come from my CSA or from a store like Whole Foods who can track its source to the grower. Sounds like a tedious way to deal with my protein sources, but I think quality is my choice over convenience in this instance. But GO, see the film. I hope that it will make you think and help you make better choices in the grocery and at restaurants.