Do you eat genetically modified food? Yes, you do, unless you grow and produce everything yourself. According to Food, Inc, which is now available on DVD, 70% of the processed food in the supermarket has genetically modified food in it. If you consume any soy products -- including "vegetable" oil -- there's a 90% chance that you're consuming genetically modified soy.
We went to the theater to see Food, Inc when it was released this past summer, and within a couple minutes, I was trying to remember if I had anything in my purse with which I could take notes. The information comes fast and furious in this documentary, so if you seriously want to know more about your food, you might want to plan to watch it at least a couple times before sending it back to Netflix. Then again, you might just want to buy it.
The movie relies heavily on information from Michael Pollan (author of Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food) and Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation), who also narrate parts of the film. We are taken through commercial chicken farms and a pork slaughterhouse to see the plight of meat animals, as well as the workers in those facilities. It doesn't take long for the viewer to realize that poultry farmers are little more than indentured servants to corporate giants like Tyson. After taking out loans of half a million dollars or more to build their poultry houses, they have no choice but to raise chickens according to the corporation's rules -- and subsist on wages that hover around the poverty level. The deleted scenes on the DVD offer more of the interview with the poultry farmers, giving the viewer a better understanding of their plight.
Stories from a meat-packing plant were equally disturbing. At the largest pork slaughterhouse in the world, 32,000 hogs are slaughtered every day. Workers who handle pork all day long wind up with infections under their fingernails, which then fall off. In the deleted scenes, we hear about a 200-pound dead hog falling on a pregnant woman, who then had a miscarriage. Another worker tells of how there was not even a moment of silence before returning to work when a man was trampled to death by hogs. Because of the bad treatment of workers at the plant, most employees are now bussed in from a 100-mile radius around the facility.
We follow a family through a fast-food drive-through lane, as well as a supermarket and listen to them justify why they buy cheeseburgers for their daughters but not fresh fruit -- even though their young daughter begs for a pear in the grocery store. "It's too expensive." The father, who has Type II diabetes spends $130 for a bottle of 50 pills, and that's only one of his medications. They seem conflicted about whether a change in diet might actually help his condition, even though the evidence is quite clear. I personally took care of my father for two years before he died, and within a month after he moved in with me, he no longer needed any of his three different diabetes medications, and we kept his blood sugar under control with diet until his death. Type II diabetes used to be rare. Today, $1 out of every $5 spent on health care is spent on diabetic patients.
There is some good news though. There is a visit to Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm in Virginia, where he raises pastured chickens and grass-fed beef. He talks about healing the land, our planet, and our bodies by switching to sustainable agricultural practices. One comment that resonated with me was when Salatin said that we should strive to have fewer sick people next year. That would be a worthy goal.
These are just a few highlights. I can't possibly cram all the info into a blog post, so if you're serious about healthier eating, I highly recommend this video.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also want to read my review of Fresh, another documentary released this year about our food system.
For more posts on real food, check out Real Food Wednesday.