It was one of the more memorable scenes in the award-winning 2009 documentary, Food Inc. Carole Morison, a contracted chicken farmer working with Perdue for more than 23 years, gave viewers a glimpse of the horrors of factory farming: birds crippled by their unnatural weight, piles of dead birds, the overwhelming stench of ammonia burning her eyes and throat. Perdue dropped its contract with Morison in 2008, but now the farm is thriving with chickens being raised sustainably.
Feeling the pressure of the growing number of small-scale farms and activists concerned with food safety and the effects Big-Ag farming has on the environment, some of the largest U.S. farming groups have joined forces in the formation of new organization called the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.
In a surprising move, three well known organic brands gave a supportive nod to what they’re calling “the conditional deregulation” of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa. The nation’s first certified organic retail chain, Whole Foods—who has a storewide policy banning the sale of GM foods—along with the largest organic yogurt brand, Stonyfield Yogurt, and Organic Valley, the largest co-op of organic meat, egg and dairy farmers issued their formal support in lifting restrictions on growing GM alfalfa.
Sir Paul McCartney summed it up when he said that if “slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Cultural norms have long justified inhumane conditions towards animals raised for food, to both suffer and die in. Animal rights organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Mercy for Animals have caught truly unbelievable “standard industry practices” and shocking cases of cruelty in undercover videos.
If you haven’t seen Food Inc. yet, now is your chance. It is a must see. It premiers on PBS’s POV April 21st! Check your local listings for the broadcast schedule. You can even download materials from the POV website to host your own viewing party.
This Academy Award nominated film is a powerful eye opening documentary about the truth behind America’s food supply. It questions whether America’s industrial food system produces healthy, nutritious, life-sustaining stuff we call food. If you take one look at America’s current health care crisis you might ask the same questions.
Food Inc., features several poignant interviews that caution us about the nutritional value of America’s food supply and question if our food products, including processed foods, fresh meat and produce, are in fact a threat to public health and safety. Interviews includeEric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma)(two food movement heroes),sustainable, organic farmer Joel Salatin of Virginia’s Polyface Farms and mother, Barbara Kowalcyk. Kowalcyk’s 2 1/2 year old son died 12 days after eating a hamburger contaminated with E. coli.
The documentary also raises serious questions about ethical business practices of food giants Monsanto, Tyson, Perdue and Smithfield companies. When these companies were asked to tell their side of the story to filmmakers, they declined to comment.
This past week California public health officials issued another recall on ground beef products sold at WinCo food stores in six western states, stating it could be contaminated with E. coli.
Despite some of the heavy issues Food Inctackles, the film is driven by visionaries of alternative businesses and activists that are leading the food movement to delicious, healthy, safe food for America.
In case you missed it, Mad Money host Jim Cramer did a killer segment a couple of weeks ago on Monsanto, the seed behemoth and Roundup weed killer manufacturer. He stated the Obama administration is stepping up its antitrust enforcement, and Monsanto is a sitting target for the Department of Justice to slap an antitrust suit against it for their monopoly on seeds.
This is great news for small, local and independent farmers.
Tom Brennan writes about Cramer’s segment:
” A series of competition-crushing acquisitions made this biotech disguised as an agriculture outfit the market leader in genetically modified US corn, soybean and cotton seeds. And Monsanto maintains strict agreements with its farmer clients that leave them virtually no choice but to feed at the corporate trough. Plus, the company plans to push through a 42% price increase on its new seeds, and there’s nothing these farmers can do about it.”
The behemoth seems to have farmers in an iron grip. Cramer states:
“When farmers buy Monsanto’s seeds they have to sign a stewardship agreement, and a contract saying they won’t save the seeds from one year to the next, or replant seeds reproduced by the crops they grow from Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds. This forces the farmers who want to buy Monsanto’s seeds to buy new ones, year after year, and pay ever higher and higher prices.”
Cramer goes on to state, “… Why is this important? Traditionally farmers have always tried to save seeds from year to year, but if you try to do it with seeds bought from Monsanto, some people say they will sue your pants off until you cave…”
Cramer says he thinks “the government is worried about the family farmer being destroyed by Monsanto’s practices” and to make matters worse, Monsanto’s increase in seed prices is “begging the Justice Department to go after them [.....] They are tempting the wrath of Obama.”
In addition, Cramer says, Monsanto “better hope the guys at [The] Justice [Department] don’t go to the movies” and see the documentary film Food, Inc. which goes head to head with Monsanto’s methods, and our industrialized food system.
Not only is it great that the current administration cares, but I think it’s pretty cool that those interested in personal financial growth – Cramer’s audience – have been turned on to this issue. I’ll be keeping an eye on this topic as it develops…in the meantime, let me know what you think!