Film Review: Food Inc.

Written by: Rebecca Baird, March 9, 2010

The film “Food Inc” has much to say concerning food production and the drawbacks which are present in industrial, or conventional, farming today. Conventional farming has gone from hundreds of farms, independently producing foods for consumers, to a handful of large companies which control all of the conventional food production in the United States. These companies dictate to the farmer, how they will grow their grain or livestock. The companies tell the farmers what they will feed their livestock, where they will house them, and how long they will live. They also tell farmers what seeds they can plant and what fertilizers and pesticides to use. Any deviation from these rules could jeopardize the farmer’s livelihood (Food Inc, 2010).

Sustainable farming was portrayed as a very ecologically friendly way to raise crops and livestock. One farmer moved his animals from field to field so that the animals would fertilize the soil then he would plant on the field after moving the animals to another field. This way the earth has a chance to rest while the animals have a prime space to graze and grow. This is a very sustainable practice and is practical as well. This saves the farmer money in fertilizer and gives the animals a new field to forage in every year (Food Inc, 2010).

The role that conventional food production plays on the environment can be seen in an article by Danny Jensen from Take Part. Danny states that “On-road transportation and raising animals for consumption are the biggest net contributors to climate change. It’s nothing new to hear that driving and meat-eating leave behind enormous carbon-footprints” (Jensen, 2010). These climate changes, which Danny is speaking of, are due to high levels of CO2 which are left behind as a result of transporting these animals from the producer to the butcher, to the packer, to the distributor, to the store, then finally to the consumer’s home. Another factor, which contributes to the warming which is felt also by CO2, is methane. Methane gas is caused by manure maintenance on large conventional farms. According to an article by Juha Siikamaki, “methane has considerably greater warming potential but a shorter atmospheric lifetime. Overall, methane is 21 times as potent as CO2” (Siikamaki, 2008). These gasses are not only responsible for causing problems for farmers and their livestock and crops, the “elevated temperatures increase the risks of morbidity and mortality….and can affect an individual’s health risk during a heat event” (Ebi, et. al, 2006).

Sustainable farming causes less of these gasses to be produced because of the smaller scale and the locality of markets. Sustainable farming practices make it possible to sell crops and livestock to local communities which lessen the CO2 factor. The rotation of livestock and crops also helps eliminate the methane gas issue because the manure is left on the field to decompose and not stored in large piles to create more gasses (Food Inc, 2010).

The role of water in conventional food production and agriculture is an ongoing issue of great concern. According to an article by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Poor irrigation and drainage have led to water loss and also to the spread of water borne diseases, water-logging and salinization of nearly 10% of the world’s irrigation land, thereby reducing productivity” (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2002). In order to change these facts and improve water sustainability, farmers will need to devise better ways to irrigate their crops and to ensure that the run-off from irrigating processes don’t cause water pollution or water borne diseases (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2002).

In order to minimize environmental pollutants eating and drinking modifications will have to be implemented. These modifications have to begin with the individual consumer in order for them to be felt by the agricultural sector. Strategies which will support moving away from industrial food system also will have a direct effect on conventional agriculture. According to the movie “Food Inc” if the consumer would choose sustainable items at the grocery store, the large agricultural companies would have to find a way to follow the lead of the consumer (Food Inc, 2010). Eating only organically raised produce and livestock, will be a definite message to the agricultural community that consumers will not support unsustainable agriculture.

Ebi, K., Mills, D., Smith, J., and Grambsh, A. (2006). Climate Change and Human Health Impacts in the United States: An Update on the Results of the U.S. National Assessment. Retrieved on March 9, 2010 from http://kucourses.com/ec/courses/24748/CRS-NS435-3897329/Unit_2_Seminar_climate_change_and_human_health_impact_in_US_article%5B1%5D.pdf

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2002). Water and Agriculture. Retrieved on March 9, 2010 from http://www.fao.org/WorldFoodSummit/sideevents/papers/Y6899E.htm

Jensen, D. (2010). Meals and Wheels: Biggest Contributors to Climate Change. Retrieved on March 9, 2010 from http://www.takepart.com/news/2010/02/26/meals-and-wheels-meat-eating-and-driving-ranked-as-biggest-contributors-to-climate-change.

Siikamaki, J. (2008). Climate Change and U.S. Agriculture: Examining the Connections. Retrieved on March 9, 2010 from http://kucourses.com/ec/courses/24748/CRS-NS435-3897329/Unit_2_Climate_Change_and_US_Agriculture.pdf

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