Food Inc: A work of fiction

Works of fiction are often entertaining but U.S. farmers and informed consumers aren’t laughing at Food, Inc., a so-called documentary containing blatant disregard for the truth about America’s safest, most reliable food source in the world.

The South Dakota Corn Utilization Council (SDCUC) is outraged by Food, Inc., a one-sided, biased film that the creators claim will “lift the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer." Unfortunately, Food, Inc., is so misleading that the objectives the film proposes would serve to increase food costs and cause hunger issues not seen in this country.

“Food, Inc., is trash. It has less value than the raw feedlot fertilizer farmers spread on the land,” said David Fremark, president of the SDCUC. “South Dakotans know the value and positive impact agriculture creates in our state but unfortunately, some consumers throughout the country could be scared into believing the fallacies of Food, Inc.

Throughout the film, Food, Inc.:

  • Demonizes American farmers and the agriculture system responsible for feeding over 300 million people in the United States.
  • Presents an unrealistic view of how to feed a growing nation while ignoring the practical demands of the American consumer and the fundamental needs of consumers around the world.
  • Disregards the fact that multiple agriculture systems should – and do – coexist.

“Farmers are original environmentalists and use the latest technology to meet the growing demand for food by improving yields, improving the nutritional quality of crops and reducing the impact on the environment,” said Fremark.

Proof of these advances were found by Field to Market, a broad based alliance including food and agriculture interests tasked with defining and measuring the sustainability of food and fiber production. The group recently released the Environmental Resource Indicators Report, which evaluated national-scale metrics over a 20 year period from 1987 to 2007.  The report cites growth in sustainability by corn farmers across five areas including water use and quality, land use and biodiversity, soil loss, energy use and climate impact. Findings included:

  • Land use per bushel of corn decreased 37 percent.
  • Soil loss above a tolerable level has decreased 69 percent per bushel.
  • Irrigation water use per bushel has decreased 27 percent.
  • Energy use per bushel decreased 37 percent.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions per bushel decreased 30 percent.

According to the International Food Information Council, although most people are not aware of the term, the majority of consumers say sustainable food production is important and increasing the world’s food supply was seen as the most important aspect of this sustainable production.  Using a smart mix of farming techniques, such as biotechnology, can help us as we strive to feed tomorrow’s population and reduce the impact of farming on the environment.

Subscribing to the film's makers' vision for North American food production would mean many things, including:

  • Food prices—especially meat and poultry prices—would rise dramatically because of the increased costs of their inefficient production approaches.
  • Vast amounts of land would need to be used to raise livestock and poultry in free range systems.
  • The environment would suffer from open systems lacking environmental controls.

 

“America has the world’s most affordable food, thanks in large part to producers’ practices which are attacked by this film,” said Fremark. “Food, Inc., offers no solutions, just outdated practices that will reduce yield and drive up costs – in effect, making sure fewer mouths are fed at a higher cost.

 

According to the International Food Information Council:

  • Today's American farmer feeds about 144 people worldwide.
  • Approximately 85 percent of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for crop production. Grazing animals on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food.
  • Meat and poultry are an essential part of a balanced diet because they are nutrient dense and are considered "complete proteins," meaning that they contain all nine of the essential amino acids needed by humans. The current USDA recommendation for the consumption of protein is 63 grams a day for adult men and 50 grams a day for adult women.
  • A 2006 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report estimated total GHG emissions resulting from animal agriculture around the world. Attempts to apply these global numbers to the U.S. are misleading because the vast majority of global GHG emissions attributed to livestock production result from deforestation and converting rain forests and other lands to grow crops or pasture. Such changes did not occur in the U.S., which has seen an increase in the total acreage of forested land over the last several decades—even while total agricultural production has increased.
  • Total U.S. dairy farmer GHG emissions decreased by about 32 percent between 1944 and 2007— even while milk production was up by almost 60 percent. GHG emissions per dairy cow dropped by almost 66 percent.
  • All of animal agriculture's GHG emissions from 1990 to 2005 have remained nearly constant, increasing by only about 3.5 percent since 1990. During the same period total U.S. meat production has increased 50 percent, milk production has increased almost 20 percent and egg production has increased about 32 percent
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