Here is a copy of my posting that I linked to yesterday:
At the time of its distribution, The Corporation, directed by Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar was a documentary that unflinchingly dismantled the illusions of grandeur provided by corporate propaganda in the United States for nearly a century. Today, twelve years after the film’s release, perceptions of the food industry have evolved in multiple and sometimes conflicting directions thanks to work by the film’s interviewees Jane Akre and Steve Wilson as well as other powerful factors.
The film focuses in on the milk industry and the careless use of antibiotics that cause great harm to the livestock and consumers of milk. Today, terms like “organic,” “natural,” and “antibiotic-free” are almost fetish-ized in our consumer culture, as they have become adopted tools by the very industry that had neglected their virtue for decades. Milk companies have to work hard to convince us that dairy is still the way to health for every child and adult, especially as social trends move towards “healthy” alternatives, free of the controversial cloud over the dairy industry. Though that shift away from cow’s milk is slow, it does represent a side effect of a more informed populace, who are looking to be sold health rather than cancer from their grocery shelves.
We are living in a different world than the one the film was produced in a little over a decade ago, which made me all the more surprised when I found this upon internet-searching “Posilac,” the controversial drug used by Monsanto that brought reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson to court with Fox News:
My first misconception before searching the term Posilac was that it couldn’t possibly still be used in milk production, assuming it could not have survived the bad press. This was incorrect of me, and the product is still used worldwide and sold by the provider of Google’s top search result, the company Elanco. What is more concerning is the language that a searcher is confronted with immediately upon looking into this drug:
“A healthy cow supplemented with Posilac produces an average of 10 more pounds of milk per day. In addition to other sound production practices, dairy producers supplement cows with Posilac to help produce a little more milk while using fewer resources.”
This description of the drug stands in jarring contrast to that of the film’s depiction, and as I looked deeper into Elanco’s website, this deceptively positive language was consistent throughout the descriptions of all of their products. The use of words like “healthy” and “resources” are hot-button words of the day, and are used here to make the product out to be a planet-saving, cow-saving feat of modern technology. This is not unlike fracking proponents’ liberal use of the word “natural.” The rhetoric of the new health-conscious media is being utilized for corporate manipulation, and seeing as Posilac is still in production, it seems to be working.
Despite a growing awareness of our food production, there is still a veil of smoke obscuring much of the truth. This veil has been created by a sense of debate and lack of clarity created and sold by companies comprising the food industry. The word “Organic” has taken hold of a powerful place in the zeitgeist and shows no signs of fading. Organic can legally be labeled on any food product containing over 95% unaltered matter. Many food providers now have a “100% USDA Organic” label to set those products apart from the sea of controversial labeling. But clearly not every consumer can account for this detail, nor can he or she understand the consequences of that 5%. This is what food producers who benefit from that margin are likely banking on.
The term “GMO,” the abbreviation for Genetically Modified Organism, has become toxic to the food industry (no pun intended) thanks to the modern media frenzy. GMO-Free is the new trendy badge to pin on any company’s reputation, and has caused public relations issues for companies like Monsanto. Documentaries targeting the company have popped up throughout the last decade that have united animal rights activists and grocery shoppers against the corporation (Example: The World According to Monsanto) A GMO is any organic organism that has undergone genetic manipulation. GMO technology has been credited with halving the rate of starvation on the planet, raising the rate food production to the demand of the industrialized world (though the majority of global agriculture is used for meat production). Thanks to a recent spotlight shift to gluten intolerance, the genetic modification of wheat through mutagenesis has been brought into public awareness, even though it is not considered a GMO technique. Mutagens are agents used to manipulate traits in seeds, creating a more beneficial crop. This process is also known as Mutation Breeding, and it requires radiation for the mutation to happen. Many articles I found referring to mutation breeding had conflicting information about the supposed health risks. This article from the New York Times by William Broad claims “The process leaves no residual radiation or other obvious marks of human intervention. It simply creates offspring that exhibit new characteristics.” At the same time, EMS (ethyl methanesulfonate) is a mutagen used in wheat and rice production and is a heavily carcinogen. This shocking information was brought to the forefront of media thanks to books like Wheat Belly by William Davis (thought the marketing of food industry science books as diet books is becoming disturbingly blatant.)
I’ve always had a very personal interest in food. My family is Italian and are all accomplished chefs in their own way. My personal fascination with food has always been in the power of nutrition. More and more information is being shared about the substantial health benefits of nutritional therapy, including the curing of disease (I recommend looking into the work of Dr. Charlotte Gerson). As we learn more about the true nutritional value of the food we are sold, the waters get muddy with speculation and needless debate over fad diet trends.
The true debate in my mind is this: knowing that there are health risks associated with our food production methods, is this enough to negate the benefits of being able to feed millions more people? We have the technology to produce huge amounts of food. That is a gift we have squandered, by sending nearly half of that food to landfills every year in our country, and one-third worldwide. On top of that, we waste our water and soil to feed an unprecedented meat industry. We are clearly producing food the wrong way. Our methods are incredibly damaging to ourselves and the planet. I have personally healed a chronic ailment of my own through food, so its power is particularly sacred to me. But at the same time I know that the world population is exploding, and to expect large-scale agriculture–as well as all the chemical and genetic technologies required within it–to be dismantled is likely a foolish one.