With Michael Pollan as their lead consultant and Eric Schlosser as one of the main interviewees, it's not hard to see what picture Food, Inc. is trying to paint. The documentary sets out to reveal to the viewer the current state of the American food industry and the shortcomings of mass produced food. It does an excellent job capturing the attention of the viewer and taking them through feed lots, disturbing images of windowless chicken coops, pig slaughter, corn, and the stranglehold that Monsanto has over many of the farmers in the United States.
Unfortunately, the film is very one-sided. It's much more like a Michael Moore documentary than "Who Killed The Electric Car?" (which I loved for exploring all the different causes for the failure of the EV1). In some cases, Food, Inc. misrepresents facts concerning the activities of major corporations such as Monsanto (as well as interviewing people who violated contracts or engaged in illegal activity without revealing what they did wrong). It's easy to vilify the big Corporation, but when all the facts are laid out, the big bad wolf just doesn't seem that scary anymore. In many cases, the people "attacked" just don't seem to be business savvy or were unfortunately specializing in a field that isn't in demand anymore and find themselves unable to drum up enough business. In one example, a seed cleaner is going out of business because his customers are contractually obligated not to save their seeds. The seed cleaner then convinces these farmers to use his services (violating their contracts). What isn't explained in the movie is that the seeds were the result of decades of research and experimentation and patented by Monsanto. Whether or not you agree that genes can be patented, you cannot deny that it is currently the law. If you were a farmer and had to choose to use public seeds or patented, these should be considerations. The seeds from that year's crops cannot be saved not only because of legal reasons but because, by luck, the hybrid seeds produce offspring that is nonviable. The new batch of seeds will produce failed crop. This fact is not mentioned in Food, Inc. From a business standpoint, Monsanto needs to enforce their contracts or their brand and product reputation will suffer as saved seed crops fail and farmers go out of business. This is also not mentioned in the film. The film makes it seem like Monsanto wants to keep farmers from acting like traditional farmers, but this isn't really the case. Both the farmer and the corporation are to blame for the change in the farming industry. The farmer chose to abandon the traditional farming techniques for the quick and easy crop (you pay more money and it grows super easy), while the corporation exploited the farmer to promote their particular plant monoculture for maximum profits leaving the American farm landscape with very little diversity and massive amounts of output (mainly of just corn and soy beans).
There are several more examples shown in the film which are used to make their point that these people are suffering due to the industrialization of food, but upon closer scrutiny it's not hard to see that these people exist because of the industrialization of food. Without massive amounts of cheap food, it may not be possible for the population to sustain itself with our general standard of living. Spending the time to examine the examples, the scenarios, and the situations presented in Food, Inc. is where I think the most important impact of the movie will be. (I actually believe that reading The Omnivore's Dilemma is probably a better use of your time, but I understand that it's easier to simply watch a movie and that's what most people are going to do - just just go watch the movie. But, if you want to think about how your food got to your table a little more, I highly encourage you to read The Omnivore's Dilemma which doesn't just view food from one perspective but considers many aspects.)
For me, I believe the industrialization of food in the United States has benefited Americans and the world as a whole, but the reduction of choices and consolidation of foods into monocultures or single source providers is a bad trend. Unfortunately, it's not the "Corporation" who is at fault for this - it's the natural tendency of people (farmers, distributors, retailers, and consumers) to go with what's easiest or cheapest without looking to the long term. The film ends with an plea to its viewers to choose to buy food outside of the conventional mass-produced food industry, and I applaud their efforts. For many, many people this will not be possible - cheap conventional food will still feed the majority of Americans - but for those of us who can make a choice, those of us who can afford to buy more expensive meats, produce, and groceries from independent growers who minimize suffering and reduce pesticide and chemical usage, we should choose to support these farmers and producers in order to ensure that in the future we will continue to have a choice. And maybe more and more people will find they are able to buy "independent" food and a balance can be struck.