Food Inc.: Same Old Complaints, No New Solutions

At the New York premiere of the new documentary Food Inc. last night, a panel of celebrity activists agreed: “We’re in a moment.” After years of taking culinary convenience and affordable food for granted (or so the conventional wisdom goes), consumers are finally starting to think about how their meals get from farm to fork. But for all that’s involved in feeding over 300 million Americans, Food Inc. made one thing clear: The rising interest in food production has generated plenty of complaints about “the system,” but very few ideas on how to improve it.
Food Inc. is a well-made documentary, but it doesn’t tell us anything new: Food activists don’t like "big corporations." They think convenient foods are to blame for obesity and food-borne illness. They rarely approve of technology in agriculture.
But despite all the grievances and calls to action in Food Inc., the film offers very little in the way of answers. Buying organic foods will hurt your pocketbook more than it will help your health or the environment. Wishing for more laws and regulations won’t make them any easier to write or enforce. And shaking a fist at the companies who provide millions of Americans with access to affordable foods won’t change anything.
Last night’s panelists didn’t have much more to add. A few rambling monologues from Alice Waters were met with polite applause and some bewildered looks. Eric Schlosser lost us at “chicken nuggets shaped like Teletubbies.” But at least organic dairy giant Gary Hirshberg gave us some free yogurt.
As the makers of Food Inc. will prove to movie-goers across the country this summer, food activists can talk the talk. But unfortunately for anyone waiting for “the food revolution” to begin, that’s about it.

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