Food, Inc. Event

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.

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3 Comments

Filed under Food Culture

3 responses to “Food, Inc. Event

  1. We, at our house, just finished reading Mr. Pollan’s “In Defense of Food”. Looking forward to taking the kids to the movie so they Fully appreciate why their packed school lunches don’t look like the others kids (never have). But, from your description it sounds like there may be some rough parts. I’ll need to preview it maybe. Thanks.

  2. The whole biotech patents on seeds is something that infuriates me, as well.. There’s an author (Ronald Bailey) (one of my least favorite) at Reason Magazine (which is actually quite good, despite its libertarian leanings that tend to drive away the more liberally-bent) This is one of his pet issues, and he frequently argues in favor of it.. Example:

    As one tracks the war against green biotech, it becomes ever clearer that its leaders are not primarily concerned about safety. What they really hate is capitalism and globalization.

    It drives me nuts.. I like how he lumps the ginormous monopolistic entity of Monsanto in with “capitalism”.

    One thing though that I dislike is how many people lump in GM foods with the evilness of big agriculture.. I’m actually not opposed to genetically modified food in general (science is our friend) — there’s so much potential for it to radically change the situation for some third world countries. (Although, as people like Amartya Sen have pointed out, the world’s assorted food crises are not really a good generation problem — they’re a food distribution problem.) It’s mostly just the monopoly/corporate-ethics/intellectual-property angle that is singularly disturbing about the whole thing.

    • alwayshungryab

      I agree that science is our friend (and capitalism, too). The true enemy is any entity that gets big enough that it is no longer required to be accountable for its actions–like Monsanto. Little guys like Moe and other farmers are responsible if a little bit of Monsanto seed winds up in their seed stores, but Monsanto is NOT responsible for the seed drift that occurs when their plants wind up growing unbidden on the edge of some farmer’s field. Makes me want to watch “The Corporation” again.

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