Monsanto gives Food Inc. two thumbs down
2.Monsanto Gives Food Inc Two Thumbs Down
NOTE: Watch the Food Inc trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mf4ZmfjyEvI
EXTRACT: Monsanto has launched a website response to the upcoming documentary Food, Inc. I was fortunate enough to see an advance screening of the film, which I felt was very reasonable and accurate in its portrayal of the facts. Monsanto disagrees. (item 2)
1.Food, Inc.: Documentary on your dinner
San Francisco Chronicle, 11 June 2009
In case you are among the Northern Californians who have avoided thinking about where your dinner comes from, "Food, Inc.," a documentary by Robert Kenner that opens on Friday in San Francisco, will send you to the refrigerator to inspect the information on your food labels.
With the film, which is based largely on the best-selling books "An Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan and "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser, the makers of "Food, Inc." hope to transform Americans' views on industrial food production, much the way "An Inconvenient Truth" helped turn global warming into a top national worry.
Among the points that galvanized the filmmakers:
*In 1972, the Food and Drug Administration conducted 50,000 food safety inspections; in 2006, the FDA conducted 9,164.
*During the George W. Bush administration, the head of the FDA was the former executive vice president of the National Food Processors Association, and the chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture was the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry in Washington.
*Cattle are given feed that their bodies are not designed to digest, resulting in new strains of the E. coli virus that sicken tens of thousands of Americans annually.
*One in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early-onset diabetes; among minorities, the rate will be 1 in 2.
Kenner, a Los Angeles documentarian, says he did not set out to make an activist horror film. In fact, his original goal was to tell the story from the points of view of both organic and industrial food growers. But representatives of the 50 industrial food companies he contacted, including Monsanto, Perdue, Tyson and Smithfield, would not talk and, more important, would not allow their production practices to be filmed.
"The fact is they don't want us to see how the food is made," said Kenner during a recent visit to San Francisco. "They don't want us to know what's in it. And, ultimately, they don't want us talking about it."
Kenner said he spent six years trying to make a film that would not appear one-sided or biased but admits he ended up with a "connect-the-dots" portrait of the American food system that is "Orwellian."
Among the film's subjects is Carole Morison, a Maryland chicken farmer, who risks her livelihood to show the repulsive conditions under which her chickens are fed and housed, per Perdue's requirements. Morison is seen wading through a barn so stuffed with chickens covered in their own feces that there is no view of the floor. She sets about her daily chore: grabbing the birds that have died from trampling because they grew too fat to walk.
"I understand why farmers don't want to talk, because these companies can do whatever they want to do as far as pay goes," says Morison in the film. Equally maddening is Kenner's portrait of a working-class Los Angeles family, who talk about why they eat fast food most nights: It's cheaper than a home-cooked meal - because, as Pollan points out, it is largely made from processed corn, wheat and soybean, crops that are often genetically modified and heavily subsidized by the government.
Kenner is adamant that food is not an elitist issue. Rather, "it is a health issue, an environmental issue, a human rights issue. This industrialized food, whether you're eating it or not, is going to cost us all."
But what can be done? Although the film's Web site, foodincmovie.com, advocates such tips as "protect family farms; and stop drinking sodas and other sweetened beverages," transforming a monopolized food system that has government backing is a seriously uphill battle.
Kenner said it is unrealistic to believe we can convert U.S. agribusiness into a network of organic farms, but he sees glimmers of hope. Since he started researching "Food, Inc.," he said, "there's much more of a movement. When we screen this, people stand up and cry. There's a built-in anger there. It's Republicans. It's Democrats."
The film's social outreach is being handled by Participant Media, which helped turn "An Inconvenient Truth" into a catalyst for global warming awareness. John Schreiber, Participants' executive vice president for social action and advocacy, has been working with more than two dozen food-oriented nongovernmental agencies to develop what he calls "actionable issues" around the film. They include the Enhanced Child Nutrition Act, which will come up for a vote in Congress in the fall.
When Kenner began the film, times were flush. Now that the country is in the worst economic times since the Great Depression, can food reform really happen?
Kenner thinks so. The global economic crisis, which has highlighted the consequences of corporate consolidation and spotty government oversight, might be good for the food reform movement, he said.
"What's unclear is how big is the movement going to be," he said. "If it continues to grow, I think there's now an atmosphere in Washington and Sacramento that is ready to follow."
"Food, Inc." opens at the Landmark Embarcadero in San Francisco on Friday, and at the Oaks 2 and the Rialto in Berkeley on June 19. For a review of the movie, see Friday's Datebook.
2.Monsanto Gives Food Inc Two Thumbs Down
La Vida Locavore, June 4 2009 [shortened]
Monsanto has launched a website response to the upcoming documentary Food, Inc. I was fortunate enough to see an advance screening of the film, which I felt was very reasonable and accurate in its portrayal of the facts. Monsanto disagrees. They say:
Food, Inc. is a one-sided, biased film that the creators claim will "lift the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer." Unfortunately, Food, Inc. is counter-productive to the serious dialogue surrounding the critical topic of our nation's food supply...
Jill Richardson :: Monsanto Gives Food Inc Two Thumbs Down
Here are some of the things I've heard from the biotech industry as a whole and - in some cases - from Monsanto specifically:
*Organics and GMOs can exist side by side, or even together.
The idea that organics and GMOs can work together (i.e. cultivate GM seeds with organic methods) is ridiculous. Setting aside the fact that GMOs are not permitted within USDA organic standards, currently the commercial GM seeds are designed for two purposes. First, so you can spray unlimited amounts of herbicide on the crops to kill the weeds without hurting the crops. Since the herbicide isn't permitted in organic farming, that kind of kills the need for those GM seeds. The other kind of GM seeds manufacture their own pesticide - Bt - which I believe is permitted in organics. But the goal behind sustainable agriculture is not creating a sterile environment where no bugs can live. You WANT the bugs, you WANT biodiversity. You'll get some of the bad bugs along with the good ones, but killing them all is antithetical to organic practices.
How about the idea that organics and GMOs can exist side by side as two separate but equal agricultural systems?
Again, I do not agree. Remember that GMOs are created for an unsustainable system of agriculture in which soil life is eradicated and its functions are replaced with technology. The very definition of the word "unsustainable" is that it cannot be sustained. You cannot do it forever. At a certain point, you run out of topsoil or water or oil or you throw the climate so badly out of whack that your plants can no longer thrive. Sooner or later, if we do not choose to abandon unsustainable agricultural practices, the planet will force us to do so and it will be far more catastrophic.
*We need more food to feed a growing population.
What we need first and foremost is a better distribution system for our food. We already produce more than enough food for everybody in the world to eat. We produce so much food that we put food in our cars as ethanol, and we use food to make plastic.
*Organics can't feed the world (or if you want to feed the world with organics you'll have to cut down the forests)
Going on the idea that we need more food to feed a growing population is the idea that organics can't produce that much food. If you want more food, you need to either produce higher yields on the same agricultural land in production today, or increase the amount of land used in agriculture (i.e. cut down forests). But remember that we have enough food, so this is actually not a problem. And yields from biotech are actually not that great according to a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists ("Failure to Yield").
I believe I've heard that the comparison between conventional and organic differs depending on where in the world you are, but one long-running experiment in Pennsylvania by the Rodale Institute using corn and soy found that organic methods (under two systems of organic management) have higher yields than conventional in most years after the first five.
*The movie demonizes the farmers that feed 300 million+ people in America.
Can I invite Monsanto to have a guided tour of any family medicine clinic in the U.S. - particularly clinics that see high percentages of disadvantaged minority patients? Ask the doctors what their top reasons for visit and diagnoses are for their patients. Yes, we are being fed but we are being fed crap that makes us very sick. And I don't think the movie demonizes the farmers at all. It shows that the farmers and the consumers are victims of the same system. In fact, the movie demonizes corporations.
*Food Inc is wrong to say the US produces too much corn and subsidizes overproduction.
Again, I'll have to disagree with Monsanto. It's nice of Monsanto to point out that the U.S. is the largest corn exporter in the world but that does not negate the accusation that we produce too much corn. Food, Inc. calls out the corn that isn't exported for contributing to a food supply of unhealthy, cheap food. The converse problem of this unhealthy, cheap corn-based food is that healthy foods are (by comparison) expensive and consumers select against them when shopping, particularly those on a tight budget.
*Monsanto didn't invent patenting seeds.
Congratulations, Monsanto. But that doesn't mean that it's a good idea to patent seeds or that you don't do it. You do. And I believe that Monsanto is the most aggressive of any company in legally pursuing farmers who violate their patents by saving seeds.
*Monsanto sues or threatens to sue hundreds of farmers a year for saving seeds.
I don't think anybody can disprove this. Monsanto said they've sued only 138 farmers in the last decade, and less than a dozen cases went through a full trial. But from what I hear, Monsanto frequently approaches farmers, accusing them of saving seeds, and offers them an agreement to sign with certain terms and conditions including a gag order. By signing such an agreement, the farmer will avoid going to court. Is this true or not? Hard to say... all the farmers who would know about it have signed gag orders if it is!
*The agriculture industry does not try to place their friends in high ranking government positions.
So says Monsanto. Well, I don't know what their role is in TRYING to place employees in high ranking government positions, but whether they try or not, it happens. And it's a problem. It wouldn't be any more or less of a problem if the ag industry was specifically lobbying for it or not.
*Monsanto is not the sole supplier of seeds in the ag industry.
This is true. I don't recall the movie claiming that Monsanto WAS the sole supplier of seeds. However, they do sell the vast majority of GMO seeds, and a very high percentage of several crops are GMOs (corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugarbeets). Monsanto has competitors in the seed business, but it has a significant market share whether you are looking at GMO seeds only or all seeds.
Food, Inc claims our food supply is controlled by corporate farms.
Bull. They claim it is controlled by corporations. There's a very big difference. Nearly all American farms are family farms if you look at USDA statistics (as Monsanto points out). It's not the farmers or the ownership of the farms that is the issue. It's the corporations that sell crop inputs (pesticides, fertilizer, seeds), process foods (ADM, Conagra), control the meatpacking industry (Tyson, JBS Swift, Smithfield), and manufacture the foods people eat (General Mills, Kraft, Kellogg, McDonalds, Coca-Cola). These are the corporations the movie says control our food supply. Because they do.