This is a documentary about the rise of the organic/local food movement in the late sixties and early seventies and the ongoing battle to end a corrupt federal food subsidy program. The latter plays a major role in the US epidemic of obesity and diabetes.
The film depicts the organic food movement as arising out of a 1960s hippy counterculture that viewed America’s growing system of industrial agriculture as intimately linked to the military industrial complex waging the war in Vietnam.*
Ironically the organic food movement began to take off just has the Nixon administration was repealing New Deal agricultural subsidies that supported small family farms and redirecting USDA subsidies to corporations producing the cheap commodities used in processed foods, such as corn, wheat and soy.
The activists interviewed decry the federal emphasis on cheap food as a false economy – we will never save enough to cover skyrocketing medical costs related to processed food diets.
Despite the rapid growth of small organic farms across the US, food activists face an uphill battle without major changes to the USDA farm subsidy program which makes cheap processed food the only affordable option for many low income families.
The high level of corporate-financed corruption becomes clear as the film follows Representative Ron Kind’s efforts to get his Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment added to 2016 Farm Bill.
*Monsanto and Dow, the corporations producing Agent Orange and Napalm also produce the toxic pesticides and herbicides used in industrial agriculture.
Food Inc is a 2008 classic only recently available for free on-line screening. Featuring investigative journalist Eric Schlosser and food activist Michael Pollan, it’s the first and (in my view) the best expose of factory farming.
This film mainly focuses on the deplorable disease-inducing conditions of battery chicken houses and industrial feedlots and slaughterhouses. However it also draws attention to the current epidemic of food borne illness, diabetes and heart disease; the corporate capture of regulatory agencies meant to protect us; the federal subsidies that make junk food cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables; Monsanto’s vicious treatment of farmers who choose not to grow GMO crops and the food disparagement and anti-labeling laws meant to keep consumer sin the dark about where their food comes from.
Most importantly this documentary questions whether the “cheap” food produced by industrial farming is really so cheap when you add in the health costs (especially of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease)
The cinematography captures horrific scenes of factory chicken houses where chickens live on top of each other in total darkness and feed lots in which cows spend their whole life knee-deep in manure. The latter cakes their hides and inevitably contaminates carcasses at the slaughterhouse.
The films draws interesting parallels between the abysmal treatment of animals and workers in the industrial food chain. Food executives argue that animal suffering is inconsequential because they’ll all be dead soon. They also regard immigrant workers as expendable because there are so many of them.
The filmmakers catch meat processors deliberately recruiting illegal laborers in Mexican villages devastated by the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). Employers are never prosecuted for these activities. Only immigrant workers are targeted.