Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Barnyard Propaganda

Posted by Google on Tue, Jul 28, 2009 at 8:34 PM

Food, Inc. is a one-sided, biased film that the creators claim will “lift the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer." Unfortunately, Food, Inc. is counter-productive to the serious dialogue surrounding the critical topic of our nation’s food supply.

Or so says food-production giant and Food, Inc. target Monsanto on its Web site devoted specifically to debating the documentary. Its talking points include:

Throughout this film, Food, Inc.:

  • Demonizes American farmers and the agriculture system responsible for feeding over 300 million people in the United States.
  • Presents an unrealistic view of how to feed a growing nation while ignoring the practical demands of the American consumer and the fundamental needs of consumers around the world.
  • Disregards the fact that multiple agriculture systems should – and do – coexist.

Any factual errors in Food, Inc. regarding other companies are best addressed by those organizations themselves. It is our responsibility to set the record straight on the film’s portrayal of Monsanto.

But perhaps the Monsanto author here saw a much different film.

First off, these talking points don't hold any water. With regard to point No. 1: The farmer is the film's hero, whether he's proving organics have a place in supermarkets, refusing to submit to industry standards, or promising Americans that should we demand good, healthy food, he'll deliver. The film does demonize, however, the corporate mechanisms controlling the farmers, i.e., Monsanto, Tyson, etc.

Point No. 2: The film's bottom-line is if we are to demand, they will supply. It's not our job to reorganize the food industry's infrastructure. We didn't invent it. But we can make an impact with our purchasing decision. Feeding the U.S. comes down to affordability, not availability, as the film demonstrates with a working-class Latino family — what good is a head of lettuce if for the same price one could purchase two double cheeseburgers. The film finds what Monsanto calls the "practical demands of the American consumer" include healthy, non-GMO-injected foods with a low-price tag. Is suggesting we don't want the risk of a side of E coli with our spinach impractical?

Point No. 3: This is an obvious spin point. Who said anything about coexistence? Why is it a "fact"? "Multiple agriculture systems," in Monsanto's case, include those using GMOs and hormones and those that don't. The film doesn't at all suggest they coexist. It suggests the former be replaced entirely with what consumers deserve and ask for. That's partially the film's argument. There is no "fact" of coexistence.

So, now that's out of the way, my question is, for a massive multinational corporation like Monsanto, quick to toss aside Food, Inc. as a "one-sided, biased" effort," why invest in a debunking attempt? Its 10-page report argues against the film's events regarding Monsanto. It has even blogged here and there about the film.

The documentary obviously has a point it wants to make. It presents its facts and uses them to frame an argument in favor of small, safe, healthy farms and denouncing the alternative. Monsanto, here, essentially does the same. Monsanto even provides links to film critics' take on the documentary — and they're not all positive reviews.

So, Food, Inc. has succeeded. A conversation has started, and arguments are in place. Now all we need are a lot less empty seats in theaters — there were only about 12 at Canal Place last night — and that conversation can go beyond message boards and blogs.

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