Saturday, June 13, 2009

We teach fish to eat corn and other Food, Inc. facts

Having watched the Food, Inc. movie, I suggest you do, too.

The movie is about the big problems in the American food industry. They stem from three major phenomena: companies' obsessive chase of efficiency and profit, government’s repeated failure to enforce food safety, and consumers’ ignorant preference for cheap unhealthy food. The result is that most Americans are eating engineered – rather than grown – food, which is causing serious and long-lasting public health problems in the US and having significant impact abroad. The agro-food industry is in denial just like the tobacco industry once used to be. Some of the food sold in the supermarkets is more harmful than the cigarettes. There needs to be a change.

Will Food, Inc. help bring about change? Will this movie be the tipping point for the food industry as the movie An Inconvenient Truth was for climate change? I certainly hope so because the problems in the food industry are quite ugly and won’t go away easily. There is enough work for everybody.

1. Government should stop subsidizing production of corn because there is too much of it at the detriment of other types of healthier and more nutritious food. If there is need to subsidize something, why not locally grown, diversified food? Instead of subsidizing food companies, why not individual farmers? Also, government should free itself from corporate influence and private interest groups, and re-commit to serving the public interest. Today the pubic interest is not in fatty cheap food but in healthy nutritious food.

2. The large food conglomerates should revise their business models to provide healthier food. Four companies control about 80% of the food supply in the US. They own the crops, meat and produce supplied by farmers. When a company such as McDonald’s is the single largest purchaser of potatoes and meat in the whole country, the impact it could have by changing the standards is huge. What more important social responsibility can a company have?!

3. Each of us should be more curious and demanding regarding the food we buy and eat. Although the market for organic food is growing fast (20% annually), the change needs to happen even faster. Already every one in three people born after 2001 is bound to develop diabetes early in their lives. We should ask from our politicians better regulation of and enforcement in the industrial food industry. We should be more aware of what and why we eat, support farmers' markets and individual farmers, and stop buying that junk food once and for all. If you are doing that already, here is more you can do.


elaine said...

hi lucia, great post, and an important one. (I wont mention my favourite food addiction !) I read a book about the way meat is processed years ago, and that stopped me buying red meat almost completely. I believe consumers are changing and the food industry will have to wake up ... thanks for this post, cant wait for the movie to get to israel.... elaine

Tim Albinson said...

A new study by Ipsos Marketing, Consumer Goods ( suggests that consumers are becoming more focused on health, wellness and the environment. When survey participants were asked to rank the things that companies should concentrate on when they’re developing new food products, the top three items were: fresher ingredients, increased health benefits, and more environmentally friendly packaging. Factors such as convenience, novelty, and even taste ranked far below. Food Inc. will continue to build on this heightened awareness.