DVDs Item ID: #120
Food, Inc. lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing how our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the
Q&A with Producer/Director Robert Kenner, Co-Producer/Food Expert Eric Schlosser, Food Expert Michael Pollan and Producer Elise Pearlstein
How did this film initially come about?
How has fast food changed the food we buy at the supermarket?
How many years did it take to do this film and what were the challenges?
Pearlstein : When Robby brought me into the project, he was adamant about wanting to hear all sides of the story, but it was nearly impossible to gain access onto industrial farms and into large food corporations. They just would not let us in. It felt like it would have been easier to penetrate the Pentagon than to get into a company that makes breakfast cereal. The legal challenges on this film were also unique. We found it necessary to consult with a first amendment lawyer throughout the entire filming process.
Who or what influenced your film?
And then, as we went out into the world, we became really incredibly influenced by a lot of the farmers we met.
What was the most surprising thing you learned?
Or we see Carol possibly losing her chicken farm … or we see Moe, a seed cleaner who’s just being sued for amounts that there’s no way he can pay, even though he’s not guilty of anything. Then we realized there’s something going on out there that supersedes foods. Our rights are being denied in ways that I had never imagined. And it was scary and shocking. And that was my biggest surprise.
So, what does our current industrialized food system say about our values as a nation?
Kenner : I met a cattle rancher and he said, you know, we used to be scared of the Soviet Union or we used to think we were so much better than the Soviet Union because we had many places to buy things. And we had many choices. We thought if we were ever taken over, we’d be dominated where we’d have to buy one thing from one company, and how that’s not the American way. And he said you look around now, and there’s like one or two companies dominating everything in the food world. We’ve become what we were always terrified of.
And that just always haunted me – how could this happen in America? It seems very un-American that we would be so dominated, and then so intimidated by the companies that are dominating this marketplace.
How has the revolving door relationship between giant food companies and Washington affected the food industry?
What have been the consequences for the American consumer?
Pearlstein : The food industry has succeeded in keeping some very important information about their products hidden from consumers. It’s outrageous that genetically modified foods don’t need to be labeled. Today more than 70% of processed foods in the supermarket are genetically modified and we have absolutely no way of knowing. Whatever your position, you should have the right to make informed choices, and we don’t. Now the FDA is contemplating whether or not to label meat and milk from cloned cows. It seems very basic that consumers should have the right to know if they’re eating a cloned steak.
Is it possible to feed a nation of millions without this kind of industrialized processing?
There is a section of the film that reveals how illegal immigrants are the faceless workers that help to bring food to our tables. Can you give us a profile of the average worker?
Why are there so many Spanish-speaking workers?
And they have been here for a number of years. But what’s happened is that we’ve decided that it’s no longer in the best interests of this country to have them here. But yet, these companies still need these people and they’re desperate, so they work out deals where they can have a few people arrested at a certain time so it doesn’t affect production. But it affects people’s lives. And these people are being deported, put in jail and sent away, but yet, the companies can go on and it really doesn’t affect their assembly line. And what happens is that they are replaced by other, desperate immigrant groups.
Could the American food industry exist without illegal immigrants?
What are scientists doing to our food and is it about helping food companies’ bottom line or about feeding a growing population?
I am not opposed to food science. What matters is how that science is used … and for whose benefit.
Can a person eat a healthy diet from things they buy in the supermarket if they are not buying organic? If so, how?
How are low-income families impacted at the supermarket?
And, in the same way that tobacco companies went after low-income people because they were heavy users, food companies are going after low-income people because they can market to them, they can make it look very appealing.
What can low-income families do to eat healthier?
Pollan : It’s possible to eat healthy food on a budget but it takes a greater investment of time. If you are willing to cook and plan ahead, you can eat local, sustainable food on a budget.
If someone wanted to get involved and help change the system, what would you suggest they do?
People can try to find a CSA – community supported agriculture – where you buy a share in a farm and get local food all year. That really helps support farmers and you get fresh, seasonal food. On the local political level, people can work on food access issues, like getting more markets into low income communities, getting better lunch programs in schools, trying to get sodas out of schools. And on a national level, we’ve learned that reforming the Farm Bill would have a huge influence on our food system. It requires some education, but it is something we should care about.
What do you hope people take away from this film?
Kenner : That things can change in this country. It changed against the big tobacco companies. We have to influence the government and readjust these scales back into the interests of the consumer. We did it before, and we can do it again.
Pollan : A deeper knowledge of where their food comes from and a sense of outrage over how their food is being produced and a sense of hope and possibility of the alternatives springing up around the country. Food, Inc. is the most important and powerful film about our food system in a generation.