Society has shifted in many ways in this historically brief age of oil, and our means of food production is no exception. The once-rich diversity of food crops has been decimated during the last few decades due to the intensive industrialization of the farming industry. A vast array of products found on supermarket shelves are manufactured from just a few primary monocrops.
Unfortunately for people and the planet, optimal health is not a common by-product of this portentous harvest.
This is the story told by "Food, Inc.," a new documentary film that exposes the profound and often dismal state of affairs commonly referred to as our modern system of food production. "Food, Inc." is highly recommended for everyone, but especially for those who eat. It is currently playing in theaters around the U.S., including Las Vegas, and will be out on DVD later this year.
One of the most significant and intimate actions we can experience in our homes is the preparation and enjoyment of a good meal. The kitchen is the traditional epicenter of domestic life, a gathering place for family and friends, and a place for sharing and healthy nourishment. Choosing food wisely should be a priority for anyone living a green lifestyle.
But modern society has a way of shifting our priorities. Many of us now spend inordinate amounts of time and money grabbing meals elsewhere as we go about our busy lives. While some welcome the convenience, few would argue that in so doing, we reduce our opportunities for quality family time and better nutrition.
The local marketplace, once common in America, has all but disappeared. In its place are huge corporate "super" markets mostly selling brightly colored packages of 100 percent substancelike material labeled as food. Technically they are correct, but that material is engineered, grown, transported, transformed and packaged by a few gigantic corporations that have one primary goal in mind: profit.
Thus corn that once grew naturally in thousands of nutritious varieties is now a genetically engineered monocrop, artificially processed into hundreds of ingredients one can barely pronounce, let alone determine their true value as food. This might all be fine if the end result was a good one but the evidence indicates otherwise.
The U.S. has an obesity epidemic. Food-born diseases and nutritional deficits are commonplace. The industrial food production process can distribute millions of products before a problem is identified, resulting in massive recalls. Not to mention that most tomatoes now taste like wet cardboard.
If we are to eat responsibly, it is imperative that we understand the reality of industrial farming. "Food, Inc." provides a glimpse behind the curtain of food production that is both honest and necessary. How many of us have witnessed beef and poultry production on factory farms and the abysmal conditions that are commonplace? Do we really know the long-term effects of genetically engineered food? In a post-carbon world, what will befall a food production system that is dependent on chemicals and energy derived from fossil fuels?
And whatever happened to democracy and our free market? For example, the food industry has successfully lobbied to prevent the labeling of genetically engineered food. Why isn't this decision left to customers so they can choose to avoid what some refer to as "Frankenfood?" The simple answer is that it's not good for business. It is not uncommon to find former food-industry executives running the very agencies that are tasked with protecting the public's interest.
"Food, Inc." is a very important film about a topic that is central to all our lives. In the trailer (which is viewable online at www.foodincmovie.com), a savvy farmer says, "Imagine what it would be if, as a national policy, the idea would be to have such nutritionally dense food that people actually felt better, had more energy and weren't sick as much. Now see that's a noble goal!"
"Food, Inc." brings a message of empowerment. We have the ability to affect change by voting with our dollars every time we stand in the check-out line. Watch the film and then decide for yourself. You just might want to use your kitchen as another valuable example of living green.
Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. Steve can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information relating to this column is posted at www.greendream.biz.