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And the winner is…not Food, Inc., thankfully

Commercial agriculture, the kind that produces most of the food, feed, fiber and alternative fuels consumed in America, dodged a bullet at this year’s Oscar ceremonies.

You may not have heard that Food Inc., the movie that claims to expose “the highly mechanized underbelly” of the nation’s food industry, was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary at this year’s Academy Awards.

Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to give the award to The Cove, a film that tells the story of a team of filmmakers who traveled to a cove in Taiji, Japan, where 23,000 dolphins reportedly are killed every year.

Farm organizations were bracing for the publicity that would have been showered on Food, Inc., if it had been named best documentary. The National Corn Growers Association sent out an Action Alert arming members with a fact sheet to use in discussing the film with friends and neighbors.

It’s unfortunate a movie with a flawed premise and factual inaccuracies can receive so much attention. But it seems to be agriculture’s fate that the more outrageous the claims and less grounded in reality a film, article, book is the more notoriety it achieves.

In the press notes, filmmaker Robert Kenner claims “Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment.”

The film says these corporations – Smithfield Foods, Tyson, Perdue and Monsanto and other multinationals “control” everything from seed to plate. It uses stories, video clips and interviews – not with scientific experts – to imply the overuse of corn in U.S. food production results in higher likelihood of food borne illness, obesity and declining numbers of farmers.

The interviews are with Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, and Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Easter’s Manifesto, so-called experts who have turned criticizing America’s farmers and ranchers and food processors into a cottage industry.

It never mentions that pesticide manufacturers spend upwards of $250 million testing a new product to make sure it is safe or that plants containing biotech traits are no different than conventional or even organically grown crops except for the gene that protects them against a specific pest or herbicide.

If “experts” like Schlosser and Pollan really want to address food safety, they should travel to China or to other countries that ship food and other products that are practically unregulated to the U.S. That would be far more productive than attacking a system that, while not perfect, offers a safe, nutritious bountiful harvest that is the envy of the world.

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