Thursday, June 25, 2009

FOOD, INC - A Film Review

Food, Inc - a documentary on the American Food System - will be opening in select cities around the country this summer, including Raleigh's Colony Theater on July 17th. Here's a review of the film from a Toxic Free NC volunteer, who saw the film this week in Texas.

Guest post by Ronald Wade

There are simply not a lot of documentaries that capture and hold my attention. So, when I went to the screening of Food, Inc this week and the “shorts” and “previews” started, I paid attention thinking that at least I could be entertained by the trailers. And, I’d have something interesting to pass on after I did the compulsory words to the readers about how the director could have done a (fill in the blank) job while doing the (fill in the blank).

But, surprise! The absolute only negative thing that I can pass on was that it should have been twice as long. So, you won’t even get to know what the previews were since I’ll use the rest of the space to tell you what you’ll miss if you don’t see this MUST SEE film.

The documentary is not about the roaches in the restaurants and has very little about the unsanitary conditions of processing and packing plants, although it does exist. It doesn’t even dwell on excessively on the safety in the industry for the workers or the misuse of pesticides and chemicals; they are however mentioned as a by-product of the main theme.

Oh yes, the Main Theme: in our quest for fast, economical, and easy to prepare food, industry has stepped up to the challenge and provided us with the answer. Food production is controlled by a few very large organizations that have the ear and seats in government to ensure that farm subsidies can continue to provide profits in their pockets while producing products that are the unhealthiest in generations.

The film takes you thorough industrial mechanization where chickens are engineered to be the same size, weight, and consistency in order to facilitate production. It doesn’t matter that the animal can’t support its own weight and wallows around in the filth until sent to market. The film exposes you to the reality of corn fed beef, which produces bacteria within the animal which in turn produces toxicity for us when processed. Oh but they have developed ammonia baths that can kill the bacteria before it gets to us. Just what I wanted, cooking an ammoniated hunk of meat on the grill on Sunday.

One of the vitally important sub-themes to the film that will be of interest to each of you who regularly read this blog will be the emphasis put on buying organically produced and locally grown food.

Be prepared to hear about how toothless the regulatory agencies are in the face of what big business is doing. Be prepared to hear about the ruthless nature of a seed company that controls 90% of the soybean market because of patents that they hold on the seed, preventing anyone from competing in the market. Be prepared for how companies will help the government fulfill illegal immigrant quotas in return for quid pro quo of no raids on the production plants for the illegals.

Be prepared to hear how food is engineered to make us happy. Interestingly the point is made that salt, fat, and sugar occur in non-engineered and non-industrially produced natural environments in small percentage quantities. However since these are also foods that stimulate our brain's pleasure points, you will learn how those ingredients are leveraged in the foods we buy thus creating an appetite for more.

Be prepared to hear a mother tell the story of Kevin who went from being a healthy young boy on vacation, and 3 hamburgers later is being mourned because he was the victim of e-coli that shut down his vital functions in only 12 days. You'll hear her describe the tribulations of her advocacy work, trying to make the industry safer for all of us.

You’ll walk away understanding his SIMPLE solutions have their origins in our agricultural history. The movie will prepare you for the future battle: “The consumer’s right to know what is in their food.”

Watch a trailer or find out more at these websites:
Food, Inc - the movie website
The Humane Society
Review from The Chicago Tribune
Eating in Raleigh, NC - a North Carolina Perspective

Note: You’ll want to use caution when attending with children. There are graphic scenes that would have been disturbing to my family members had they decided to go to the matinee with me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Time to end Endosulfan

There aren't many pesticides as nasty as endosulfan still on the market. Endosulfan is a highly-toxic insecticide from a family of chemicals called organochlorines. If that term sounds familiar, you might recognize some of the other now-banned cousins from this group of highly-persistent pesticides: DDT, chlordane, aldrin and heptachlor.

Endosulfan has been blamed for severe poisonings and even deaths among farmers and farm workers, not to mention reproductive damage and birth defects. So why are we still using this stuff?

EPA is re-thinking its continued registration of endosulfan, and has recently re-opened a 60-day public comment period on the antiquated chemical. Take a minute to sign the United Farm Workers' petition to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson asking her to ensure that this dangerous pesticide is finally removed from the US market.

In North Carolina, endosulfan is still used on some vegetable crops, though there are myriad alternatives available. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that in 2007 endosulfan was applied to about 22% of tomato fields in our state - putting both farm workers and consumers at unacceptable risk of exposure. Because endosulfan is so persistent in the environment, traveling long distances and bioaccumulating in the food chain, it has been banned in more than 60 countries.

It's long since time the U.S. joined their ranks. To sign the petition, click here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Why do so many doctors oppose the Titan cement plant?

The medical community is coming out in force against the proposal to build a massive cement plant in New Hanover county.

In his article (pdf, 144 KB) for Wilmington Parent magazine, pediatrician Dr. David Hill discusses how mercury in the environment affects children's brain growth and development, and the damage to growing lungs caused by particulate pollution in the air - both of which the Titan plant will bring in spades. Dr. Fred Opper, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, reminds us in his statement (pdf, 44 KB) that no level of mercury exposure is safe for children, and that more than 8,000 children live or attend school within 5 miles of the proposed Titan site.

Titan officials love to argue that the toxic pollution that will be emitted by the plant will be completely legal - all within federal and state limits. Small comfort when there are already more than 30 species of fish so polluted with mercury that the state of North Carolina recommends children and women of child-bearing age avoid eating them altogether. Mercury isn't just a passing cloud - once it's in the environment, in our food and water and bodies, it's there for life. Adding another significant mercury source to our state's already-full lineup is just a bad idea, and physicians get that better than anyone. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention.

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