Sunday, 5 September 2010

Food Inc., Robert Kenner, USA 2008

I admit that I haven't always been a conscious eater in the sense of that I wasted any thought on questions like, what actually is in the food I am consuming or where it is coming from, but I have increasingly turned into a conscious eater over the years. As a consequence, nowadays, whenever I can, I tend to buy organic. Of course, incurable cynic that I am, I'm often wondering, too, where organic food's coming from and what exactly organic means. A very valid question, I find, now that Wal-Mart (!!!) has entered the organic food business. Anyhow, as far as I know, organic means different things in different countries, depending on the legislation. But I suppose - hope - that even the worst organic food is better than buying non-organic food. Then again, some time ago, several major newspapers here in the UK ran the following headline, "Organic food has no health benefits, research finds". Well, I thought, now exactly which big corporation has had their fingers in this one ...? It certainly didn't convince me. I have remained a staunch convert to organic produce ever since I read about Monsanto wielding its toxic power a few years ago in an article in the German weekly Der Spiegel some years ago.

So no, it didn't take Kenner's film to open my eyes, or rather, Kenner's film opened my eyes even more. And this, I think, is the most you can say about this no doubt important documentary: That it has the power to make people think - as long as it is seen by those who are still MacDonald devotees and not by those, like myself, who had already been converted prior to watching it. More powerful than the information in Food Inc. are its images. And meat eaters be warned: These images are not easy to stomach and have the power to convert even the staunchest defender of the slaughtering of animals. But don't get me wrong: Food Inc. is not a statement against meat consumption. It is however, a film that provokes you to reflect on where the steak you are eating right now in your favourite restaurant, or the wrapped chicken breast you just bought in your local supermarket, came from, what the animal has been fed, and how they've been treated.

While Food Inc. is full of important information, there's too much of it to be able to digest it, much less retain it. Also, although Food Inc. is largely free of the polemical documentary style made popular with the films by Michael Moore, I'd have wished some of the information Kenner provides was backed up by a source ("90% of all supermarket products contain corn"). I actually found Food Inc. at its most powerful at very beginning, with the camera gliding across the shelves in some unnamed supermarket, when Kenner points to the labelling of the products, many of which contain the term farm or farmhouse when, in fact, the product itself has precious little to do with anything commonly associated with farming but is much more akin to an industry product as he then shows in the images that follow. It makes you think about your own local supermarket which is equally full of products with similar labels, and you realise that this is nothing but a shrewd, not to mention cynical, device by the food industry to pull the wool over the eyes of the unsuspecting - and unthinking - consumers.