Agribusiness movie notes

Notes derived from “Food, Inc.”
Industrial food system
 Began with fast food in the 1930s and the development of the fast food industry
o McDonalds
 They wanted to produce consistent, fast, affordable meals to the public
 As a partial result of societal change and fast food companies need for food that fits exact
 Livestock production became highly mechanized
o Goal is to produce a lot of food on a small amount of land at an affordable price
“Factory Farms” resulted
 Assembly type working conditions
 Large scale farms that are owned by a small group of large multinational corporations
 Everything is controlled and owned on these farms from seed-to-supermarket
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
 In order to produce more food, faster, and requiring less space crops and livestock
production has changed through the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
o GMO - These plants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits
such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content.
 Fructose corn syrup was the biggest advance as this is used in many different food
o Corn production has also dramatically increased with 30% of the United States
land base now being planted of corn
 100 yeas ago a farmer could grow approximately 20 bushels an acre, not it is 200 bushels
an acre
 Turn of the last century the average farmer could feed 6-8
o Now, the average farmer can feed 126 people
 Once an organism is altered it can then be owned by the company who has made these
 Created a pesticide resistance strand of soy bean
 In 1980s only 2% of all soybeans contained Monsanto’s patented gene that was resistant
to Round Up (pesticide)
o 90 % of all soybeans now contain Monsanto’s patented gene
 You are NOT allowed to save your seeds from one year to the next
 Monsanto has a staff of 75 dedicated to finding farmers who are keeping seeds from one
year to the next
o If you are caught you will be charged with patent infringement
Livestock Production
 Growth hormones is a technique frequently used with livestock
The results are animals that mature much faster than their natural rate and are much
larger than they traditionally are
o Bones and internal organs of chickens cannot keep up with their growth
o They can only take a few steps and then fall over
Corn is fed to cow because it causes them to get fat quickly
o High corn diet results in E. Coli bacteria that are acid resistant – the harmful ones
o E. Coli has mutated through feeding cows corn
o This is a result of the diet of cows and the condition these animals live in
The company BPI produces meat filler and must kill the E. coli bacteria that is present in
the meat
The industrial food industry is always looking for greater efficiency so ammonia now a
processing fluid used to kill E. coli
o Hamburger meat filler has been cleansed with ammonia to kill E. coli bacteria
o 70% of all hamburger meat filler in the US is produced by BPI
If feedlot cattle are taken off of their corn diets and put on grass for 5 days they will shed
80% of their E. coli bacteria
Health Concerns
 The problem with E. coli bacteria is now not only a problem with cattle production but
because of the size of these farms areas not directly related with this livestock are being
 There are now frequent cases where products such as spinach and apple juice are being
recalled due to E. coli bacteria due to the runoff of these factory farms
 Kevin’s Law was created as a direct result of this problem
o The goal of this proposed law is to give back to the USDA the power to shut down
plants that repeated produce contaminated meat
o It has been 6 years in office and the law had still not passed
o It will be fought by industries because it will increase their costs if they need to
increase testing of product, etc.
o There has actually been a decrease in funding to the USDA and a greater onus put
on industry to self-police their activities
 Diabetes rates have increased in both adults and children
o Possible causes are the increase in high fructose, carbohydrate foods causing an
increase in insulin levels
o Since the cost of crops such as corn have been artificially reduced to meet the
demand of the food industry wanting a reliable, cheap food source, in many cases it
is cheaper to buy fast food meals than go to the grocery store and purchase a
healthy alternative
o Type 2 diabetes used to only affect adults but there are now increasing rates of
childhood obesity and early onset diabetes in children
o 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes in their lifetime and minority groups will
experience rates of 1in 2 have early onset diabetes