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A Review of “Food Inc.”

April 9, 2010

Did you know that those tomatoes you buy at Meijer were picked while they were still green?  The companies that produce them ripened them artificially.  Or did you know that the chicken you had for dinner last night may have lived its life without seeing the sun?  Or at least, it did until it was taken to be slaughtered.

The 2009 documentary Food, Inc. informs its audience not only of the facts about the food you put into your mouth, but the impact of that food’s production.

Though its focus is on food, its overarching theme is that the corporations behind everything are able to get away with their actions because they are too big and powerful.  According to the film, for example, only 4 companies control about 80% of beef production.  The companies have concentrated so much power that they are capable of effectively infringing on our ever-valued freedom of speech – it has become increasingly difficult to “speak out” against their products.

The film demonstrates the corporations’ power particularly by demonstrating the dependencies they have created.  The maltreatment of the animals and products are relatively secret because of the large number of undocumented immigrants doing the “ dirty work.”  The companies’  mass production and innovations, however unhealthy or inhumane, allow them to cut costs and produce cheaply, creating a reliance on their products by both producers who must remain competitive and consumers trying to cut costs. For example, farmers must purchase patented seeds to compete in the market, sell the resulting produce back to the companies, and face prosecution for patent infringement if they save any seeds.  Both producers and consumers are unable to pay the legal bills to fight these corporations.

But like with every film, there are a few flaws.

First, the film does little to explain why the government allows all this.  It notes all the people who have become a part of the government, who have in the past had certain relationships with the corporations in question.  But never does it explain how or why these individuals became a part of the government, nor does it explain what connections these individuals may still have with these corporations.  As far as I know from this documentary, these government officials have no personal motivations to defend the corporations they were formerly involved with.

The documentary also says very little on the effects of these products on poor populations.  It touches on this subject a little bit, but not enough.  There is no discussion of the environmental effects on poor areas that ultimately make the areas even poorer, and says very little on how these people are unable to compete, but become a very part of the dependent producing and consuming population.

Finally, it does not really encourage people to get involved individually.  Though it offers various suggestions (such as visiting http://takepart.com/foodinc ), the film says nothing about how one person, or even a small group of people, can have a positive impact.  It instead frames the problem as a collective one, but offers a solution based on individual action.

Nonetheless, the movie contains a lot of valuable information, especially for the critical viewer, and I would recommend it to anybody interested in the subject.

-Adam Zeidan, MPT intern

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