Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Food Inc

I watched this documentary the other day online at the CBC. In many ways the story they are telling is the very typical one of the big bad corporation. They are raising fear about the corporations that are making the foods we eat.  I am not convinced of many of the points they try to make.  The film goes for a shock value and is not really about making us better informed.

Food Safety and Big Companies - Are we really worse off?
In the past when the producers were smaller, there were regular outbreaks of ecoli and other illness, but they scale was small and local and did not make the national media.  If we go back to before World War 2, the issue of small producers and food safety was bad enough that the government had to step in and regulate food production.

GMOs - Are they really bad?
The fear of GMOs is a fear of science, a fear of using technology for the benefit of humanity.

 We have done amazing innovations in agriculture over the last 100 years. These innovations mean we can grow more food on less land than ever before. We are able to produce enough food for everyone on earth, something that has almost never happened in the past. With increased innovations we will be able to feed more people higher in the food chain than ever before. There are several billion Asians about to join the middle classes and they want to be able to eat more than basic starches.

What I did not find interesting about the film was learning more about industrial farming and what is happening and how it is happening.  I am out of the loop in food production and being on Vancouver Island I really do not have the chance to see how things are done.  

Industrial agriculture has meant that in only a couple of generations in Canada the issue of people starving is gone. The cheap food of today is better than the cheapest food people were eating several generations ago. Yes, we have a lot of health problems, but the nutrition of the working classes is not the horror it was in the past. In Victorian England the diet of the working class was so bad that they were measurably shorter than the middle and upper classes.

Much of the bad food is driven by the choices people make and thereby creating a demand for this food. The amount of processed food I buy is limited because I like better quality food and I am stingy, processed foods are more expensive. Cooking from basic ingredients is cheaper than any fast foods or processed foods. 

People make choices to not cook good food.

All in all, I was not left impressed with this show, a much better series is the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution. This is about teaching people to cook good food from basic ingredients, it is about connecting people to the food as a social time and a way to look after themselves and the people around them.   I am under no illusions that the Jamie Oliver show is not cut to make the story more dramatic, TV is there as entertainment.   What I am happy with is the underlying message that is positive and empowering.

I think the time has come for a mandatory course on cooking in high school. A Jamie Oliver style one. Get the kids making food from basic ingredients, get them buying them.
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