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Food, Inc. A Robert Kenner Film

Premiere Date: April 21, 2010

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Ask the Filmmaker

Food, Inc. director/producer Robert Kenner chatted with viewers on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010. Check out the transcript below.

Moderator: Thanks for joining us for this live chat! Filmmaker Robert Kenner will be here at 2PM EST to answer your questions!

Comment From Claudia Eaton
Thank you for your movie, Food, Inc. - it has changed my life.

Moderator: Unfortunately, Robert Kenner might not have time to answer all your questions. Please note that your questions are being held in a queue, and will be published by the moderator as the session goes on!

Comment From Kevin Kelly, South Caroli
The only reason I will not be able to join you later is that my seventh grade humanities class will be watching the film! They have seen half already and it has spurred lots of debate, wonder, and even tears. THANK YOU!

Comment From MikeyMaus
I just stumbled this, and I am in the right place at the right time. I am grateful for your film, it's made a serious issue accessible to a very wide and very mainstream cross section of my friends and family. I thank you for that.

Comment From Marcia
I never knew the truth behind GMO's until seeing your film. Very enlightening!! And I have made an effort to be sure everyone I know sees it. I think it will be in a few Christmas stockings next season. Thank you!

Comment From John Darwin Kurc
I think it is too late to stop the unbridled greed in the US. Your film changed my life and I will be moving out of the US in about 7 years. I am sick of the crony-ism!

Comment From A L D
Reminded of the book "The Omnivores Dilemma." Very interesting topic

Moderator: Hi everyone. Thanks so much for being here to chat with "Food, Inc." filmmaker Robert Kenner.

Moderator: Again, a reminder: Robert Kenner might not have time to answer all your questions. Please note that your questions are being held in a queue, and will be published by the moderator as the session goes on!

Moderator: And Robert's here! Welcome, everyone, to a live chat with Robert Kenner, the director of "Food, Inc."!

Robert Kenner: Hello everyone! Delighted to be here and happy to answer questions.

Comment From John Darwin Kurc
Mr. Kenner, Will you make a follow up movie to Food, INC.? I want to be involved. I have photographed feed lots and would like to collaborate with you. I want to help change this world.

Robert Kenner: John, it's great that you are doing what you're doing.

Comment From Chris
How have you food habilts changed since making this film?

Robert Kenner: I don't think I'll be doing a direct follow up.

Robert Kenner: You have to be careful of what you take pictures of these days, so you should check the laws.

Robert Kenner: I find that it's hard for me to eat industrial food.

Comment From Katie
Can you recommend good sources to stay current on the key debates, changes, news, etc. in sustainable food issues?

Robert Kenner: Both industrial chicken, industrial meat, industrial tomatoes, strawberries...

Robert Kenner: I'm not a vegetarian, but I'm trying to eat far less meat.

Robert Kenner: I don't think our planet can sustain the amount of meat people are eating. We have to cut our meat consumption.

Robert Kenner: Katie, I think there are certain sites you should visit:

Robert Kenner: Grist, Food Democracy Now!, Civil Eats, Slow Food USA

Comment From Kate Fielder
Has the film impacted the food industry that is noticeable?

Robert Kenner: There are many more, but that will get you into the world...

Robert Kenner: It's had tremendous impact.

Robert Kenner: I think both the film and ...well, the food movement is a growing, robust movement.

Comment From Adam Schweigert
During the airing of Food, Inc. last week, a number of representatives of agricultural interests organized an effort on twitter to counter the claims made in the film. You've said that you made efforts to represent their side, but that no one would talk to you. Are their efforts after the fact too little too late? or do you think there is still a place for them in this debate?

Robert Kenner: These companies who did not want to talk with me in the film are now taking notice of what's happening in the consumer movement.

Robert Kenner: Washington is taking notice, too.

Comment From Xhoana
What about the other countries what do they do, what about Canada or Mexico? Have these big corporations taken over Latin American farmers as well?

Robert Kenner: There are potential antitrust hearings against Monsanto.

Robert Kenner: A big one recently in Congress that was included in the health care bill was food labeling regulations.

Robert Kenner: So Washington is really taking notice.

Robert Kenner: These corporations know no world boundaries.

Robert Kenner: Ultimately this is as much a story for the world as it is for the US.

Comment From Napp Nazworth via Facebook
In another interview I heard you say that you think lots of small farms would be better than fewer large farms. Won't that drive up the costs such that the poor would be hurt? Why can't we have the efficiencies of large farms and still have good, healthy, food that doesn't harm the environment?

Robert Kenner: Going back to Adam's question...

Robert Kenner: Ultimately they are producing the vast majority of food, so I think they have to part of the debate.

Robert Kenner: Hopefully they will be open to hearing consumers' concerns.

Robert Kenner: Napp, That is an excellent question.

Robert Kenner: One that I was hoping to understand in the movie, but unfortunately didn't get to deal with because I was denied access.

Comment From Chris
As a filmaker there are always tough choices on what gets left out of the final film. What are come of the topics that didn't make the final cut or that in hindsight you wish you were able to address?

Robert Kenner: The question is... how to create efficiency and maintain diversity. How do you create efficiency and not harm the earth and not harm the consumer.

Robert Kenner: We are producing food now for the least money at any time in history. The question is what are the unseen costs?

Robert Kenner: And can we afford them?

Robert Kenner: The other problem is that the system we have now is basically dependent on gasoline.

Robert Kenner: It takes so many gallons of gas to raise a cow.

Robert Kenner: We won't be able to continue this system forever.

Comment From Mat
How can you say that GMO's are bad...when it is apparent that they are allowing us to produce more food than we have ever been able to before.

Robert Kenner: If you believe in peak oil, this system won't go on forever. It's going to become far more expensive.

Robert Kenner: Matt: I never said GMOs were bad in the film.

Robert Kenner: What we said is if they are so good, why aren't they being advertised?

Robert Kenner: Personally, I don't want to eat GMO foods, but I didn't say they were bad at any point in the movie.

Comment From Claudia Eaton
Can you provide some suggestions on how to start the conversation about your movie? I am met with "it's about healthly eating, ick" - how can I help my friends realize it's about so much more?

Moderator: Keep those questions coming! Again, please note that your questions are being held in a queue, and will be published by the moderator as the session goes on!

Robert Kenner: Chris, again a good question!

Robert Kenner: I think the challenge with Food, Inc. is that we addressed too many questions.

CraigC: RT @jennykoreny: Ask FOOD, INC. filmmaker Robert Kenner a question by tagging your tweet with #foodincchat (via @povdocs) [via Twitter]

Robert Kenner: I think the combination of how much sugar, salt and fat is put in our food is one that is really important.

Robert Kenner: But i'm not regretting covering other topics at this point.

Robert Kenner: I could have done an entire hour on the Smithfield story, the pig workers's story, and I'm sorry that got cut down.

Robert Kenner: BTW, if people sign up for my mailing list at, I will try and keep you all apprised of what is going on.

Robert Kenner: Sign up for the mailing list.

Robert Kenner: Claudia, again, on my site, I have clips from Oprah.

Robert Kenner: We've been the #1 selling film on Amazon for the past 170 days, so the film appeals to more than activists.

Comment From Sandra Caballeros
What can we suggest the government do in order to monitor the cleanliness of farms and the respect of animals, and workers?

Robert Kenner: What makes me happy is that it's a film that has crossed idealogical boundaries. Rupert Murdoch has just given away 70,000 DVDs with the Sunday London Times.

Robert Kenner: Sandra, we need real inspection to take place.

Robert Kenner: We've been cutting inspectors. I think we need more of them. We need to also make it easier for small farms to operate.

Robert Kenner: Most important, we as consumers need to become conscious of where we're buying our food.

Comment From Jeff Wetherbee
I worry that the word "Organic" on labels will soon become a generic term like so many of the other mis used packaging tools used on foods we eat. How can we be sure that there is truth in labeling?

Robert Kenner: If we buy from farmers markets and small farms, generally the workers and animals are going to be treated better than they are at large corporations.

Robert Kenner: I think one of the biggest things that we need to change is the national school lunch program.

Robert Kenner: All the gross things I saw in Food, Inc. were all going to the lunch program.

Robert Kenner: And if we can start to source 10, 20, 30% of that food for the lunch program from local farms, it will change many things.

Robert Kenner: It will be incredibly beneficial.

Robert Kenner: Jeff: Good question!

Robert Kenner: I think the word organic is true, but the standards have become lax.

Robert Kenner: Carol's chickens could be labeled organic (if they were eating organic feed) but they are still chickens housed in a small house.

Robert Kenner: that's not quite the definition of organic that we think of.

Robert Kenner: We need tougher standards.

Comment From Birke
Robert, I am 11 yrs. old and your film propelled me into a search for what is happening with food and why. My goal is to be an organic farmer a la Joel Salatin style! I have already attended a day long seminar with the lunatic farmer @ The Farm in Summertown, TN. I would like to know what inspired you to make Food Inc.?

Robert Kenner: But again, farmers markets have good food.

Robert Kenner: It may not be strictly organic, but their food is going to be fresher and healthy.

Robert Kenner: Birke, (laughing here)

Robert Kenner: First of all, I would like to say if there were a thousand more kids like you

Robert Kenner: we are going to have a great future.

Robert Kenner: What inspired me is that I wanted to know more about my food, what's in it and where it comes from...

Robert Kenner: I didn't think that would be such a dangerous question to ask.

Comment From Guest
So how do we fix the school lunch program. Where can I start? Are there resources for this?

Robert Kenner: One such program to learn about is Alice Water's Edible Schoolyard program.

Robert Kenner: Then go to and there are ways to get involved with the movement there.

Robert Kenner: The other is to go to your local school board.

Robert Kenner: You will be frightened to see what is being served.

Comment From Tricia
Just think if the schools grew food on the school grounds with parents, kids and community helping out and a staff to freeze/preserve the food over the summer to be fed to the kids during the school year. Could you see this happening?

Robert Kenner: Tricia, there are programs where this is starting to happen in schools.

Comment From Charity Dishon-Fischer
Many of our local farmers follow organic "guidelines" but it's too expensive to get the USDA Organic label.

Robert Kenner: This is happening to a degree. If it were happening more, it would be fantastic.

Comment From Mike
You mentioned inspections/standards and such. Will those increase the costs more for smaller farmers? How do we know food is healthier at farmers markets?

Robert Kenner: It would teach kids about how to eat, as well as provide them with good food.

Moderator: Keep those questions coming! We're sorry that we can't quite keep up with the very high volume of questions, but Robert will do his best!

Robert Kenner: The real challenge is that kids are bombarded with so much sugar, fat, salt, that they forget what real food tastes like.

Robert Kenner: Mike, we have to find a way that we don't put more burden on small farmers.

Robert Kenner: I think that is being done to some degree.

Robert Kenner: In terms of the second part of the question...

Robert Kenner: there has always been foodborne illness

Comment From Brody
Is there a movement to get rid of the corn subsidies? Is it possible?

Robert Kenner: the trouble now is because of the centralized system, one sick cow could get into thousands of hamburgers.

Robert Kenner: A local farmer at a farmers market has to see you again the next week.

Robert Kenner: They have some connection to the community they live in.

Robert Kenner: There can still be foodborne illness, but I feel much safer there.

Robert Kenner: Brody, I think that is the hardest thing to change in Washington.

Robert Kenner: But as the consumer food movement grows and gathers strength...

Robert Kenner: there will be a discussion on lightening up on the corn subsidies, but that is our biggest challenge.

Comment From Guest
What was the most shocking or eye openening discovery you made in researching & filming for Food Inc?

Robert Kenner: The problem is that we have food that makes us sick that is less expensive than healthy food.

Robert Kenner: And that is why we need to change that subsidy.

Robert Kenner: For me, the two most shocking things were when I went to the hearing on whether to label cloned meat.

Robert Kenner: I didn't realize there was cloned meat and when the meat representatives stood up and said that they thought it would be too confusing for the consumer to be given that kind of information, that labeling

Robert Kenner: I found that shocking.

Robert Kenner: The other was that Barb Kowalcyk could not tell me how she ate or how it changed her eating habits after her son died because

Robert Kenner: she was scared of the veggie libel laws.

Comment From Don Franklin
Question: Are you worried that Food Slander Laws will become legal issues for you? Has any threats been made since the airing of this documentary?

Robert Kenner: They make it illegal to endanger the profits of a food corporation.

Robert Kenner: Don, I was very worried.

Robert Kenner: I had no idea what a litigious world I was entering when I started making this movie.

Robert Kenner: I spent more on legal fees for this film than my past 15 times 3.

Comment From Tricia
What does "cloned meat" actually mean? Are they growing steaks in petri dishes?

Robert Kenner: I was still worried.

Robert Kenner: We were not sued, but we were attacked numerous times.

Robert Kenner: The real danger is that their threats make people sensor themselves, and that's wrong.

Robert Kenner: censor, sorry.

Robert Kenner: Tricia: No, they are cloning animals with identical DNA.

Robert Kenner: This continues to narrow the diversity of the food.

Robert Kenner: We used to have a great diversity and cloning is the ultimate example of a monoculture.

Comment From Ben Williams
In the town I live in, the few farmers markets we had were driven out by the low prices of industrial food in supermarkets. How can small farms survive when, in today's world, the lowest price seems to always win? I personally would love to shop at an organic store or farmers market, but it seems impossible in smaller towns.

Robert Kenner: Ben, I wonder where you live.

Robert Kenner: Farmers markets around the US are booming.

Robert Kenner: There is great growth.

Robert Kenner: One possibility for you would be to join a CSA.

Robert Kenner: A CSA is community supported agriculture.

Robert Kenner: Buying directly from a farm.

Comment From anne
is any one company that was mentioned in Food, Inc. stepping up to the plate and making changes to better their practices?

Robert Kenner: Farmers markets may be more expensive but you are getting far better food, and as we see in Food, Inc., your health costs are going to go down.

Robert Kenner: And you will be helping the community.

Comment From Tricia is a great resource to find CSA's for Ben

Robert Kenner: We dealt with Gary Hirshberg who is trying to make changes.

Robert Kenner: I say go to farmers markets.

Robert Kenner: There are companies that are trying, so I would say stay in touch with these websites, Slow Food USA, for example.

Comment From Guest
During your research, did you find out why there is such a gap between the european food laws and American? As western society, shouldn't we all have the same concerns?

Robert Kenner: In terms of other companies who originally refused to be in the film...

Robert Kenner: I've met with most of them since and they claim they are all being squeezed by economic forces that force them to create this kind of food.

Robert Kenner: Smithfield just created a sustainability post. They said they never thought they would create such a thing.

Robert Kenner: My concern is that people are still treating the workers terribly.

Robert Kenner: I'm as concerned about these workers as I am for the animals and the environment.

Robert Kenner: The biggest concern is what we call the race to the bottom.

Robert Kenner: people have fallen in love with cheap food and cheap calories.

Robert Kenner: In Europe, obesity is also becoming an issue.

Robert Kenner: health issues related to food are becoming big issues in Europe.

Robert Kenner: In England, they were saying they were better than us because they didn't have GMOs.

Robert Kenner: But in reality their animals were all eating GMOs. It was a lack of a transparent system.

Comment From De
You talk about pesticides in Food Inc. Farmers have decreased the amount of pesticides by 4% since 1990 while crop output increased by 15%. I think that is huge. Without pesticides wouldn't we lose a great deal of crop due to uncontrolled insects and disease organisms?

Robert Kenner: I can do two more questions. This has been really interesting.

Robert Kenner: people's concerns about food is going to help change this system.

Robert Kenner: i do hope to be doing a series about small steps we can take to change things.

Robert Kenner: De, Troy our soybean farmer, said that in the last few years, he has found his pesticide and herbicide amounts skyrocketing.

Robert Kenner: Troy is a conventional farmer who likes some of the Monsanto products.

Robert Kenner: Though he was not fond of Monsanto, necessarily.

Robert Kenner: He is concerned by both what these chemicals are doing to his soil and water, as well as to his costs now.

Robert Kenner: This again is caused by a two crop rotation.

Comment From Michelle
I've seen posts here and there suggesting your film is biased. How do you respond to that criticism?

Robert Kenner: He is only growing corn and soy, which makes it harder for the insects and the soil to adjust, and the weeds.

Robert Kenner: Michelle, we attempted to talk to everybody.

Robert Kenner: When we talked to Richard Lobb from the National Chicken Council, I put his best statement in.

Robert Kenner: "We produce more chickens on less land for fewer dollars."

Robert Kenner: I've taken a lot of grief for showing Walmart in the way that I did.

Robert Kenner: I can only say that I truly attempted to include these other companies

Robert Kenner: and I'm sorry they didn't participate.

Comment From Lori
What do you think is the single most important thing people can do after watching your film?

Robert Kenner: Thank you so much for coming. I'm running off to my next appointment, but this has been great.

Moderator: Hi Everyone. Thank you so much for participating!

Moderator: Unfortunately, Robert had to cut the chat a little short to make his next appointment!

Moderator: Your questions were fantastic, and we hope that you enjoyed the chat. We certainly did.

Moderator: Lori, check out our TAKE ACTION guide for the film to find out what you can do

Moderator: The rest of POV's website also has lots of information about sustainable eating, school lunches, genetically modified foods -- many of the issues covered in FOOD, INC.

Moderator: And sign up for Robert's mailing list at his website to stay on top of the issues too!

Moderator: The transcript of this chat will be available right here on the POV website.

Theresa @ POV: Have a great afternoon, everyone!

Moderator: Thank you again for participating!

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The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000...”

— Michael Pollan, author of
“In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto"

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