Sunday, May 2, 2010

Health Politics: "Food, Inc"

So I finally got around to watching Food, Inc last night. I had so many reactions to that movie, I'm just going to list them and then discuss them in detail one at a time.

1. I really don't want to eat soy ever again
2. I want to learn to hunt and possibly fish
3. Whenever I have my own house, I want to have a garden
4. The food industry and the major players in it are all part of a vicious cycle that, if left unchecked and allowed to spiral out of control, will ultimately result in the collapse of the system.

****Beyond this point I will discuss specific parts of the film, so if you haven't seen it yet I'd advise you to go watch it before reading further****

1. The film discusses the role of soy production in the food industry, and how one company, Monsanto, controls virtually all of it because they patented genetically-modified seeds. Soy is incredibly unhealthy, but a quick survey of several random food items (both in my kitchen and on the internet) revealed that just like High-Fructose Corn Syrup, it's found its way into virtually everything.

2. Contrary to what the PETArds would have you believe, hunting and fishing are some of the most sustainable activities one can engage in. If you kill a deer, you get quite a bit of meat from it, which reduces the amount of industrially-produced meat you buy at the grocery store, and you get the peace of mind from knowing the animal had a good life in the wild and died rather humanely compared to the way animals die at some of the slaughterhouses. While it's obviously important to get the carcass tested for chronic wasting disease, I'd guess that wild game has a lot less bacteria than industrially-produced meat.

3. When I was a child, our family had a greenhouse next to our house in which we grew tomatoes. We also had a rhubarb patch. Though I don't remember particularly liking the cherry tomatoes (they were messy and kind of big for a kid to fit in her mouth in one bite), in retrospect, it was pretty cool. Another, more recent experience that comes to mind is the summer of 2008, in which the apricot tree near my mom's office was just bursting with fruit. I went to visit her on her lunch break one day, and we picked bags and bags of apricots (both from the tree and ones that had already fallen to the ground). Wherever I end up living after college, I definitely want to grow some of my own fruits and/or veggies.

4. Michael Pollan pretty much hit the nail on the head with his statement about the role of agricultural subsidies in the food production system. I'm no biochemist, but I understand enough about food to know that the level of processing required to produce the majority of the corn and soy products (soybean oil, hydrolyzed soy protein, high fructose corn syrup, etc) is not something that any kind of food should be undergoing. Unfortunately, these products are in a lot of food, and, in my opinion, a major contributor to a lot of mainstream health ailments.
So, the government subsidizes unhealthy food --> the people eat said food --> the people get sick --> the people have ridiculous health care costs --> the people turn to the government for health care reform because they think that will fix things.
And the above statement wouldn't be complete without a shout-out to all the doctors who make up imaginary diseases, the "symptoms" of which are simply a consequence of eating industrially-produced food. After all, if a doctor tells you to "eat more vegetables and less starches/processed food" and you go and do that and get better, you get to avoid future doctor visits. But if he/she tells you that you have some kind of "health condition," it keeps you coming back, and keeps money in his/her pocket.
But, as the movie said, the government definitely does not have your best interests in mind.

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