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The Industrialised Food System In America Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 1993 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Food Inc. Exposes America’s industrialised food system and its effects on our environment, health, economy & workers’ rights. This food industry does not want its consumer to know what exactly it is that they are eating because if they got to know what really goes into the making of their food, they would be repelled by it. The American Food Industry is thus gover

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ned by the mantra of faster, fatter, bigger and cheaper which thus drives their profits. The food has been priced so cheap that the average American consumer would choose it over healthier option merely on the basis is price. One would thus be surprised to know how many foods is just a mere rearrangement of corn. Which is why the U.S. government has been attempting to make illegal, the publication of any photo of food processing. (Kenner, 2009). The book brings to light several issues:

Animals being treated like machinery, getting upgrades and tune ups just to be brutally slaughtered. The genetic modification of food. (Puddz, 2010)

Bacteria like E. Coli present in our food because of their presence in the cow’s gut. (Puddz, 2010)

The question of whether or not people have the right to know about their food and who is responsible to keep it safe. Consumers are unaware of how their food is processed and what does it exactly contain. Corporations go to great lengths to protect their names. (Puddz, 2010)

Healthy organic food being expensive than junk food thus is inaccessible to the average family. (Puddz, 2010)

Unskilled labourers in the industrialised food industry have low wages, bad working conditions and no union to represent them. (Puddz, 2010)

American corporations putting profit ahead of the lives of the people, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of their worker and the environment at risk. (Puddz, 2010)

We will attempt to look at some of these issues within the framework of certain theories

1. The World at Risk- (explained with the help of Ulrich Beck’s World Risk Theory)

Ulrich Beck has tried to provide an understanding into how both risk and progress have managed to co- exist and develop in a society. His work has focussed on many areas which attempt to explain global pandemics such as SARS, AIDS etc. and the increasing health risks associated as technology develops in the area of food production. E.g. pollutants, radiations, toxic chemicals that are used in the production of food. Beck’s Theory in one sense attempts to explain how complex hidden relationships between technology and political institutions has lead to a scenario where the health of the people has been compromised as they have no control or influence whatsoever on the forces of food production. They are mere recipients of the same. It also subtly appreciates how modernity and scientific technology has managed to gain mastery over what we consume and the communication in this regard. Although this modernist project has managed to rid humanity of it over dependence on nature for survival with the help of technological breakthroughs it has reached a point in its transformations where it is moving into a state of reflexive modernity.

According to Beck, an advantage of this industrial modernity has been its ability to cross geographical borders and infiltrate cultures across countries. The presence of fast food chains across most developed and developing nations is an evidence of this fact. Non domestic economic actors thus in association with legislation through domestic actors play a vital role in the spread of industrial modernity across the globe. Thus although industrial modernity has given the liberty to most nations to give up their over reliance on nature for sustainability, it has also implanted the disease of unhealthy eating. (Jarvis)

In the face of accepting capital investment from these conglomerates, the nation then has to make secondary the welfare of the state as it cuts down on corporate tax (which it promises them at the time of competing for foreign direct investment) as well as displaces the income and employment of domestic nationals who relied heavily on the demand from the people on natural resources for their survival. The state shirks away its traditional responsibilities and makes individual security therefore an individual affair thus giving rise a number of other income generators for the state such as insurance.

In order to generate the maximum income from newer markets, foreign investors now try to flood the market with goods that totally replace the need for locally made products or services. Thus while encouraging habit of unhealthy eating and an over reliance on ready made goods (the justification for which by most people is lack of time to prepare the food which is absurd considering the amount of time people spend on social networking sites which has made facebook a booming business today); they also attack the livelihood of the people which forms the premise of the economy of the country. Thus technological advancement has led to a situation where people are blatantly accepting the risks associated with it as a part and parcel of life without realising that they have every right to not have to live with a ticking time bomb every day. Technological advancements in the food industry have had adverse impacts on the agricultural industry in America, had a radical impact on the average American diet and have increased the incidences of obesity, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases.

2. The question of Human Rights explained with the help of the Universalism School of thought

Technological advancements in the food industry that claim to have bettered the lives of people and are cited as examples of an evolutionary and progressive society however has also raised the issue of human rights. The examples given in the book off strawberry pickers and meat packagers illustrate this example. Strawberries are a very tender and fragile fruit and require a lot of care and attention when they need to be picked. The flooding of Californian supermarkets with strawberries therefore is an evidence of the amount of labour that is required to pick them when ripe. The sad irony is that this labour gap is filled by thousands of illegal immigrants who have to do these menial jobs for very low wages and in terrible working conditions. (Weber, 2009) The same is the case halfway across the globe where Bangladeshi workers work for companies such as Wal Mart for wages as low as $25 per month. (Alam, 2010)

This can be viewed from the framework of universalism. According to this school of thought human rights can be suspended in the light of the greater good of the community. Rights such as equality, freedom of choice & individualism do not find a place in such a world. (Oracle ThinkQuest Education Foundation)

As one can see it isn’t a representation of an ideal situation. The most basic rights of people who work in the food industry have been suspended because of the greater good of ‘capitalism’. However in light of the current state of the food industry, with so many people falling prey to such lifestyle diseases what remains to be questioned is the veracity of this claim.

3. Unaccountable Power explained with the help of Elite Theory

The food industry is the most important industry in the world because every other industry depends on it. Without food to eat no other industry would survive. Food Corporations constantly try to seek deregulations and subsidies from the central government. They constantly try to abolish or get rid of any regulation that protects the interests of the consumers or the workers who work for them. Which is evident from the fact that the FDA permits the sale of meat from cloned animals without any labelling that suggests so. Food today although produced by these food corporations still bears the imagery of farmers and farms. The reality however is that this food is not produced in the farm rather in the factory. These multinationals have little or nothing to do with the farms or the ranches, the imagery of which is used to sell it. The food sold to us comes from assembly line, just like how cars are manufactured today which almost signifies that there is very little distinction between how the human body and a machine is being treated. (Kenner, 2009)

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A group of these food corporations control the entire food supply chain right from it production to distribution. So much so that when children in the U.S died because of the presence of E. Coli in the hamburgers, it took the federal government almost a month to shut down the plant despite the fact that the plant had tested positive for the presence of E. Coli in its food. (Kenner, Food Inc., 2009)

This can be explained with the help of the elite theory in political sociology. According to the Elite Theory, power in society is concentrated in the hands of a few elite groups that control essential social institutions, in this case the food industry. This group that controls power thus uses any means to retain that power which would mean lobbying to suppress the rights of the masses. They are also not accountable or answerable to anyone. It thus rejects democracy and an egalitarian society as a utopian concept. (Concern Infotech Pvt. Ltd, 2010)

4. Burning food for Ethanol production explained with the help of the scarcity hypothesis.

The book highlights the scam of burning of food especially corn for the purpose of production of ethanol. This despite the fact that it is common knowledge that fuel created from ethanol releases a very high number of greenhouse gases compared to other bio fuels. It leads to higher food prices. Considering the fact that images of malnourished children are common in underdeveloped countries and battling food shortage across the globe is a pressing matter, it is surprising how the U.S government hasn’t rolled back the mandates it passed in favour of ethanol production. The amount of corn that was used to produce ethanol in the year 2007 was twice the amount that was produced in the whole of Europe and five times the amount produced in Mexico. The amount of grain that is needed to fill a 25 gallon SUV tank can feed a person for an entire year. The U.S government in the bargain is reducing the cost of producing Ethanol which is produced from an already much subsidised grain. It raises food prices around the world thus putting vulnerable countries at risk. (Weber, 2009)

To understand this we must begin to understand the utilitarianism approach with respect to the scarcity hypothesis. It explains that the moral worth of any action in society is judged by how much it maximises its positive utility and minimises its negative utility. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs the needs that will first be fulfilled are those that fall under the most primitive needs. When those needs are fulfilled it is then that one moves on to fulfilling secondary needs. (Ahuvia & Wong, 1995)

Thus since majority of the population in an American society have fulfilled their basic physical and security needs and have now moved on to esteem needs. However because of the scarcity of fuel to allow them to achieve these they have been using resources that could have fulfilled the basic needs of people halfway around the globe to fulfil their esteem needs.


There are a number of issues in the book and the movie that is beyond the scope of this report such as the financial crisis and climate crisis as a result of the practices of food corporations in America. As highlighted by the book, it will take education to eradicate the misconceptions that we live with respect to the food we consume and to see the benefits of eating healthier options.


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