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In 2001, two-and-a-half-year-old Kevin Kowalcyk became a victim of food. His death was induced by hamburger meat contaminated with the E. coli bacteria.
Kevin’s story is one of many issues discussed in Food, Inc., the recently released documentary directed by Robert Kenner. A special screening of the film was hosted by the Pesticide Watch Education Fund on Friday evening at the Crest Theatre.
Food Inc. begins with an aerial shot of farmlands that transform into the packaging of a Farm Fresh product. The film discusses the modern food production industry’s tendency toward using an agrarian visage for goods manufactured in factories.
Much of the data and research in the film is provided by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation. They narrate government policies and practices by the food production industry that contribute to the alteration of our ecology, bodies, and the way consumers think about food.
As a public health nutritionist, Judy, who chose not to disclose her full name, says she has an advantage over consumers due to her formal training with food systems. “I can decipher it more easily," she said. "You shouldn’t have to be a nutritionist to pick your food. That’s a problem.”
The film highlights the lack of transparency in food industries with regards to ingredients in products. California Senate Bill 63 is cited as an example of an attempt to label foods that have products of cloned animals.
Monsanto, a leading multi-national corporation in the sector of genetically-modified foods, plays a big role in the film, and its relationship with farmers is depicted as a strained one.
A series of vignettes are done with several farmers battling Monsanto over intellectual property rights. Deposition tapes reveal the politics and policies underlying the production of our food.
The closing credits offer reform measures for the food industry and feedback on how to make health-conscious choices as shoppers are faced with the prevalence of high-fructose corn syrup, an ingredient the film depicts as unhealthy, as well as other potentially unhealthy ingredients in the aisles of grocery stores.
The creators of Food, Inc. encourage support of local farmers markets and organically-grown food.
After the screening, a panel of experts in the field was able to speak on the topics brought up in the film and suggest the same support for community gardens and farmers markets.
Jaclyn Hopkins, coordinator of EAT Sacramento, connected the concerns of Food, Inc. to her community in Oak Park. “We’re considered a food desert," she said, "meaning that there is no good food in our neighborhood and our kids don’t have access to healthy things that can allow them to thrive.”
“We’re just seeing huge amounts of childhood obesity, diabetes, things that are not the natural condition of children,” said Judy, referencing the research done in her field of work. "It’s because it’s pretty toxic for kids."
Kathryn McOmie, a former teacher, predicted the return to an agricultural society as a result of watching the film. "This huge financial meltdown may be a way really of turning ourselves to think," she said. "We’re going to go back to growing our own food.”
Food, Inc. delves into the processes at work before consumers reach the checkout line—from the very fields and labs from which their food comes . It has sparked dialogue on the future of food, both as we know it and do not.