Center for Food Integrity CEO Charlie Arnot sat down with Food, Inc. director/producer Robert Kenner at the 2009 Food System Summit Oct. 6-7 and asked questions that were presented by the audience. What follows are a few of the Q&As that demonstrated the lack of knowledge and different perspectives that went into making the film.
Charlie Arnot: Ninety-eight percent of farms in
Robert Kenner: It’s harder to farm unless you are a huge food producer. One of the things that is lost is we don’t have integrated farms; we no longer have animals on the farm. It costs more to raise a pig on a diversified farm than someone who buys subsidized corn feed. If the government is supporting the industrial system, the question is, is the industrial system sustainable? It takes a lot of oil to run the system.
We can produce more food in a CAFO operation, but can we feed the world with more organic type farms? I don’t know the answer to that. The danger of industrial operations is based on gasoline and pollution.
Arnot: You raised a lot of questions but didn’t offer solutions.
Arnot: Farming has become industrialized, capital intensive, has industrialization become bad or wrong for society?
Arnot: Sustainability is a hard term to define. What is your working definition?
Another farm we went to did not have much topsoil. What are we doing to the earth and water systems and the oil? What is it doing to people’s children? There are also abuses to workers who are growing this food and most of them are illegal. I don’t think the American public cares as much as I do, but they care about sustainability and health.
Arnot: In obesity and diabetes what is the role of personal responsibility vs. food system choices? How does that play into policy?
Arnot: What is driving the attack on the food system? What happened and why are people coming after the food system?
We wanted to reach out to people who hadn’t thought about food. TIME ran a cover story on it. I don’t have solutions, but hopefully people will work with industrial groups to find out how to produce food in sustainable ways.
Arnot: There are a lot of mainstream producers but you only featured larger intensive operations. Was there an effort to reach out to try to reach the mainstream producers instead of just the industrial ones?
Arnot: Will there be a Food, Inc., 2? And what will its message be?
Arnot:: There is a lot of anxiety in people in the ag business. Did they overreact and what should the next step be to reconnect?
Arnot: In the film you say consumers vote three times a day. Are they already voting because they are comfortable or are they unaware?
An Inconvenient Truth came 25 years after the first Earth Day. People hadn’t been thinking about food. Fast Food Nation came out eight years ago. Michael Pollan’s book came out three years ago. It’s a really big market that is growing. It’s a fascinating subject and will continue to grow exponentially.
Arnot: You expressed concerns about a monoculture. A lot of other sectors have become industrialized and are monocultures. Take Southwest Airlines who do one thing with all the same kind of planes for efficiency. Why should the food system or agriculture be held to a different standard?
Arnot: If you could boil it down into three common concerns or overriding issues and big major themes driving the movement, what are they?
Arnot: You can choose to eat three meals a day of whatever you want. How should policy, the market and personal responsibility make decisions?
Arnot: Can less intensive agriculture feed a growing population globally?
Arnot: Was any funding for the movie provided by activists groups?
Arnot: There is a frustration by folks who are promoting and producing good food. Do you have suggestions for them to better tell their story?