Last night I went to a press screening of Food Inc, Robert Kenner’s film about the corporate takeover of the American (and global) agricultural and food industries. For anyone who has read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, or Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, many of the issues, and even the characters, will be familiar – Pollan and Schlosser both appear in the film – but that doesn’t make it any less chilling. Most shocking was its account of the bullying tactics used by big agro-food corporations to silence their critics, and of the cosy relationship they have with those in power.
There was a Q&A with the director and Patrick Holden of the UK Soil Association after the screening. One of the topics that came up was the particular US focus of the film. Robert Kenner said they’d decided to concentrate on the US, but could have gone anywhere, including to mass meat-processing centres in Romania. And he also mentioned that China was heading in the same direction as the US.
Does anyone out there know much about factory farming in China? Many of my Chinese friends are very worried about speed-rearing, and about hormones in meat, and prefer to buy what we would call free-range and organic foods where possible, but it is hard to find trustworthy sources unless you know the farmers yourself. Certainly I’ve met farmers who don’t eat their own pesticide-laced vegetables themselves, but keep a separate patch for produce grown for the family table.