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The Battle of the Food Documentaries: Truth vs. Fiction

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The battle of public opinion on agriculture and our food supply has moved from the computer screen to the big screen. This summer, consumers have will have two documentaries to chose from that deal with our food supply, our diet, and our health. Playing in theatres currently are the movies Farmland and Fed Up. These are two diametrically opposed viewpoints, presented in two very different ways.  Both claim to deliver the truth, but one will use reality and the other will use fear.  After viewing one you will feel comforted and positive, the other will make you scared and angry. In the end, who will be the winner?

 

Farmland is a documentary produced by award winning director, James Moll. It features the real life stories of six young farmers. It portrays their lives, livelihoods, struggles, and opinions.  While these producers were handpicked, the filming process was pretty straight forward. Moll and his crew showed up on their farms and followed them around as they went about the business of farming. Moll told me he wanted to focus on the people not the politics. I asked him if there were things he had to cut out to deliver a message the sponsors wanted. He said no, there was nothing he had to edit or remove from the film.  The film was underwritten by the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, a coalition of the nation’s largest farm and commodity organizations.  This project came about in response to movies like Food Inc and others, which painted a very negative and one-sided picture of modern agriculture and the food production system.

 

While farmland was in production, another film was being produced called Fed Up. This film was produced by Laurie David, whose credits include the documentary Inconvenient Truth. In the director’s own words, this film “Inspires people to make changes in their lives and in our food environment.” It does this by playing fast and loose with the truth, making outrageous and unsubstantiated claims, and scaring people into changing what they eat. The film is packed with liberal and radical celebrities including Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, former President Bill Clinton, and Senator Tom Harkin. The film is narrated by Katie Couric, who lost all her journalistic integrity during the last election. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an organization that has been behind some of the largest food hoaxes and scare in American history, is featured prominently in the film.

 

Unlike Farmland  which tells a story and lets the audience make up its own mind, Fed Up crams its pre-formed ideas down your throat. Some of the more outrageous statements made in the movie include: “Sugar is like cocaine, you become an addict;” “This is the first generation of American children expected to lead shorter lives than their parents;” “95%of all Americans will be overweight or obese in 2 decades;” “We are toast as a country.” These statements and claims are all delivered with the solemn, smug certainty that all radicals use when they have no proof to substantiate their claims.  Fed Up is the same old fear message, delivered by the same old tired  blowhards.

 

Never before have consumers had a more clear and definitive example of the two different messages being delivered about food and agriculture. I hope people see both films, so they can get a true picture of American farmers as well as a true picture of the shallow and bankrupted arguments of those who want to restrict what we eat and to put a good portion of the food industry out of business. 

By Gary Truitt