What would you think of a newspaper story that presented only one side of an issue?
You'd call it shoddy journalism.
That's exactly the impression left by the new documentary film "Food, Inc." In it, the director and producers present a portion of the picture of production agriculture, in the process building a case in favor of locally produced, organic food.
However, huge parts of the story were left out. For example:
n The film several times shows Humane Society of the United States video of "downer" cows that was secretly taken at a California slaughter plant. However, it makes no mention that the USDA inspector general has found that the agency's budget was inadequate to inspect properly the cattle at the plant. They also forgot to mention that the plant is no longer in business.
n Film footage of feedlots leads viewers to believe that all cattle spend their entire lives there instead of spending a short time on feed before going to slaughter.
n A portion of the film focuses on farmers who save soybean and corn seed. Farmers who buy patented seeds cannot save their the seed. Seed dealers tell them that, and over the past several years it has been discussed at length in the farm community. That this should be presented as a surprise to anyone is disingenuous, to say the least.
n The so-called "links" between various agricultural companies and officials in the federal government date back many years and even decades. They have been previously reported in the media and even in another film, "The Future of Food," several years ago.
n When companies refused to comment on their production practices, the film's director left it at that. The facts of these and other issues are readily available in legal documents and from a variety of sources, including newspapers and magazines. Anyone with a computer, Internet access and a little time could find out the federal government's and the companies' stance on any of these issues. Yet the film made it appear to be a stonewall.
n While it makes sense that farmer Joel Salatin would illustrate the local food movement - he has long been an effective and outspoken proponent - it is mystifying that Walmart would be mentioned as a champion of anything other than its own bottom line. Is Walmart really the model corporate citizen of the future?
n What the film leaves out is as important as what it leaves in. While it focuses on corn, meat and poultry production, it makes no mention of the other types of food that U.S. agriculture produces cheaply and plentifully. What about wheat, fruits and vegetables? Barely a word is mentioned. Yet the same broad brush is used to sully the reputation of most U.S. farmers.
When taken as a whole, these shortcomings can best be summed up in two words: Hatchet job.
If they favor locally grown, organic food, that's fine. Lots of people do. But to trash highly efficient food production because they don't like it is grossly unfair.
The film did little to advance the debate over how food is produced.
More importantly, it ignored the complexity of an efficient system that feeds much of the world.
- Capital Press