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Food, Inc. A Robert Kenner Film

Premiere Date: April 21, 2010

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Live Chat with Filmmaker Robert Kenner

Robert Kenner, the filmmaker behind the Oscar-nominated Food, Inc., talked with POV viewers about eating meat, farmers markets, Monsanto and his new website, FixFood.org.



POV: This live chat with Food, Inc. director Robert Kenner will begin at 2 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday, August 10, 2011. If you're here early, you can enter your questions or comments now, and we'll queue them up for our guest.

POV: We'll be starting in about 15 minutes... If you have questions for Food, Inc. director Robert Kenner, get them in early!

POV: We're just about to get started with Robert Kenner, the director of Food, Inc. We'll be moderating your questions and comments, so they won't appear immediately, but we will be able to see them all and we will get to as many as we can!

Robert Kenner: Hello

POV: Welcome all to our live chat about Food, Inc. with director Robert Kenner.

POV: Hello, Robert! Thanks for joining this live chat with POV viewers.

POV: There's no way we can get to all of our viewers comments, but here are a couple of them before our first question...

POV: Cheryl Vogler-Renaud (via Facebook): Found a great farm where I live, grass fed cows!!

POV: Lori Keller (via Facebook): If I have to read the label to see what's in it, I probably shouldn't buy it.

POV: And here's our first question, about YOUR food habits, Robert:

Comment From Sierra
Since watching the film, I know my own eating habits have changed. What (if anything) did you change about the way you purchase and consume food after working on the film?

Robert Kenner: I still eat meat, but I think it's really important to eat far less meat, and I only eat pastured meat.

Robert Kenner: It's more expensive, but I eat less. I shop regularly at my local farmers market. And I have a hard time when I travel.

Comment From Kate
What an important film! My question is about farmer's markets. I'm frequently tempted to purchase eggs and dairy at farmer's markets, but I'm still dubious about the practices even of local farmers (in terms of humane treatment, organic products, heritage breeds, etc). Should I take this case by case or do you have a general opinion of products at farmer's markets?

Robert Kenner: My general opinion is that if things are grown nearby they're fresher and if the farmers are selling to the same customers every week, they tend to be safer.

Robert Kenner: I want to make sure that the people I'm buying from are truly local small farmers, not just reselling from larger farms.

Robert Kenner: So ask your farmer what his or her practices are. People need to feel comfortable asking questions about their food.

Comment From Tom
As a person on an extremely tight budget, I have made the move to being a vegetarian since I cannot afford to buy organic meat everytime I go to the grocery store. I still find myself not being able to support a purely organic diet, as I am a recent college grad and don't make enough money to spend on all organic groceries. What would you suggest as concrete ways I can go about directly promoting change, even though I can't necessarily "vote" the way I would like every time I go to the store?

Robert Kenner: I think supporting local smaller farmers

Robert Kenner: I think you're doing a good job of it by eating mostly vegetables.

Robert Kenner: That will help sustain our planet and improve your health.

Robert Kenner: In terms of organic food prices, there are some vegetables that you can buy that are not organic, but still acceptable choices.

Robert Kenner: Google the dirty dozen...

Comment From Diane
I really want to take action, but I want to do so in a positive way and go beyond my consumer choices. What do you think of organizations like PETA, Farm Sanctuary, or Farm Forward? How do you feel about peaceful demonstrations/protests for these causes?

Robert Kenner: Groups that I am involved with, or some of the groups I'm involved with are Food & Water watch, Slow Food USA

Robert Kenner: Environmental Working Group, NRDC, amongst others...

Robert Kenner: They have actions that you can follow.

Robert Kenner: And then I would like to add that I am starting and developing a site called FixFood that will have very specific actions that people can take to fix the system.

Robert Kenner: We will be up in October and I hope you will take a look: FixFood.org

Comment From Joel
The Dirty Dozen also brings up an old war film. ;)

Robert Kenner: You know, for me as a filmmaker, I was amazed at how hard it was to find out what is actually in our food.

Robert Kenner: On some levels , Food, Inc. became about much more than just the food we're eating. It became about the right to know what we're eating.

Comment From Sharon
I just watched your documentary and wanted to thank you for shedding light on the truth. It really changed my thoughts of our food in America. Thank You.

Comment From Nicole
While shopping, what are some of the best ways to make sure you're buying organic food? Is the USDA label the most reliable? I know that there are a lot of big brands claiming that they are organic.

Robert Kenner: The USDA standards for organic are low, but I think they are generally adhered to.

Robert Kenner: The problem is just because it's organic, doesn't mean it's good for you.

Robert Kenner: An organic Twinkie is not really good for you.

Comment From Guest
I'm wondering if you've met with increased resistance to food policy overhauls as the political gridlock and financial pressure in the US mounts?

Robert Kenner: There is a growing food movement in this country.

Robert Kenner: The industry is aware of the tremendous interest that consumers have in what they're eating.

Robert Kenner: They are very resistant to change, but at some point they know they have to when consumers demand it.

Comment From Joel
What will happen/What do you think the future of food is if specific companies Do take over 100% of a product niche with GMO Food? For example if Monsanto does ever control 100% of US Soy, or that beef filler (ew) company from the film does get to be used in 100% of the beef filler that consumers purchase? Or do you think that organic trends will expand and counter any such possibility?

Robert Kenner: I think both trends are growing.

Robert Kenner: There continues to be incredible consolidation in the marketplace. But organics is the largest growing segment in the marketplace. The problem is that GMOs can encroach and endanger the organic fields and organic crops.

Robert Kenner: And it's threatening the consumers' right to choose what they want to eat.

Comment From Jim
Do you have any updates on Monsanto's seed monopoly? Have there been any changes over the past 2 years?

Robert Kenner: Obama's administration have gone ahead with GMO alfalfa

Robert Kenner: ... Alfalfa means our meat and milk will have GMOs in it.

Robert Kenner: Monsanto continues to grow... But superweeds that are resistant to their GMO chemicals are giving farmers a reason to question the effectiveness of GMO crops.

POV: We have a few comments coming in from our Facebook page (http://facebook.com/povdocs):

POV: Dionys Murphy (via Facebook): I find it interesting that eco-freedom-fighters haven't targeted Monsanto.

POV: Tomerial Brooks (via Facebook): i do find it interesting how the meat industry has been not as targeted and/or brought to their knees so to speak as the tobacco industry has.

Comment From Alissa
How worried are you about lack of crop diversity? Are there any good movements out there that are trying to tackle this issue?

Robert Kenner: I think the lack of diversity both in our crops and our corporations is a serious issue.

Robert Kenner: It's unhealthy on many levels. The Center for Food Safety is out fighting Monsanto trying to create greater diversity in both of these areas.

Comment From Merilee
Realistically, where do you see our food system going in the next 20-25 years? Will it continue in this pattern or is there enough of a counter movement building that it will change?

Robert Kenner: We're going to have incredible food challenges in the next 20-25 years.

Robert Kenner: Our population will be growing tremendously worldwide.

Robert Kenner: People in China and other developing nations will be eating more and more meat in the next 20, 30 years.

Robert Kenner: It takes vastly more energy to have a plate with meat on it than a plate with vegetables.

Robert Kenner: I think we as consumers will have to learn to eat differently.

Robert Kenner: Forthy percent of food that comes from the farm to our kitchens is wasted.

Comment From Guest
thank you so so much for such an informative view of our food…

Comment From Guest
You MUST read the label

Comment From Heather
How will/how viable are community sustainable gardens toward reversing trends of GMO foods especially in urban settings with ever expanding city boundaries? And what would you recommend to do to get started to the persons interested in such?

Robert Kenner: I think community gardens are great both in teaching us where our food comes from and providing us with fresh food.

Robert Kenner: Perhaps Slow Food USA could be helpful.

Comment From Nicole
If we decide to plant our own gardens, how do we know that the seeds we use aren't GMOs?

Robert Kenner: It's becoming more and more of a struggle.

Comment From Guest
Do you feel that a state regulated food industry would better control the quality of foods we consume?

Robert Kenner: I think that we need regulation. I think when Kevin, the boy in the film who ate a hamburger with e coli and died. And the fact that the corporation knew that that meat contained e coli...

Robert Kenner: and still it remained on supermarket shelves because the gov't didn't have the right to recall it is wrong.

Robert Kenner: We get upset with big government but I am more concerned by big corporations who are only interested in their bottom line

Robert Kenner: and not our safety.

Comment From Mischa
Have you read "Eating Animals"? What is your response to those who feel that, with the food industry as it is now, we should cut meat/animal products out of our diet all together?

Robert Kenner: In Food, Inc. we don't tell people what they should eat.

Robert Kenner: We people to see and to know what they are eating. But I do feel that the planet can't continue to eat meat the way that we do.

Robert Kenner: We wanted people to see what they are eating.

Comment From Penny Bradford
I'm interested in doing my part, buying local, but I am also wondering what strategies will "Fix Food" try to fix the problem associated with non-sustainable practices of the big corporations like Tyson, let alone the big grocery chains.

Comment From Brad Wilson
Will FixFood.org have info on price floors and ceiliings and supply management. Do you follow these issues?

Robert Kenner: FixFood will have very direct asks and specific things they can do to go about changing the food system.

Robert Kenner: We will target consumers who may not have really thought about the consequences of what they are eating before.

Robert Kenner: And we'll be targeting young people who are interested in taking very specific action.

Robert Kenner: We're partnering with a number of NGOs and for profit companies.

Robert Kenner: We're working with Eleventh Hour, Environmental Working Group, Grace Foundation and the for profits include Stonyfield, Chipotle, Annie's, Applegate and a number of others. There's more info about it on the POV website in the Film Update: http://www.pbs.org/pov/film_update.php

POV: That's http://www.pbs.org/pov/foodinc/film_update.php

POV: Welcome to our late additions! We're talking with Robert Kenner, director of Food, Inc., which was broadcast on POV last night.

POV: We're seeing all of your questions and comments and we'll get to as many as we can in the 20 minutes we have left with the filmmaker.

Comment From Brad Wilson
Will you be partnering with the National Family Farm Coalition? Their groups were fighting the drop in price floors and introduction of subsidies in the 1960s, 70s, 80s farm crisis and on to today.

Robert Kenner: I've spoken with them and hopefully we'll be able to help farmers transition from conventional farming to more organic type farming.

Robert Kenner: Hopefully whatever we do will be supportive of what they doing, as well.

Comment From Guest
Do you think by raising the price of meat in the market this will generally help to reduce the meat we consume?

Robert Kenner: I think food should reflect the externalities of what it takes to make them.

Robert Kenner: So if you have CAFOs that are polluting the water and the air and are helping spread new antibiotic resistant germs, those costs should be reflected in the prices.

Robert Kenner: Ultimately, we consumers end up paying for things that these companies are causing. They should be paying for the problems that their pollution is creating.

Comment From Guest
Last week, Cargill announced a major meat recall of ground turkey because of salmonella. Can you tell us more about that? Could it have been handled better?

Robert Kenner: I think the big problem with what happened last week, and continues to happen regularly, is that we have lack of government inspection because Congress doesn't feel we can afford 300 million dollars to provide inspectors to inspect where our food comes from and what's in it. We could help reduce the deficit by inspecting our food more thoroughly.

Robert Kenner: And then we have 100 billion dollars of food borne illness in this country each year.

Robert Kenner: Companies don't like to recall food that can make us sick because it hurts their bottom line.

Robert Kenner: It's the same thing that happens multiple times every year. It happened with the eggs. It happened with peanut butter. It will happen again within the next few months.

Comment From Kyra
Hello POV! Mr. Kenner, since your film came out in 2008, has anyone from the food industry responded directly to the film?

Robert Kenner: I met with many food representatives.

Robert Kenner: They realize that something is going on, and they want to talk about it.

Robert Kenner: i think their desire to talk ranges from they need to know what the consumer wants, to they need to find a better way to advertise to the consumer so they can continue doing what they're doing.

POV: Can you tell us what's happening with Kevin's Law? A few of our viewers have been asking:

Comment From Alissa
When is Kevin's Law going to pass?

Robert Kenner: The FDA passed a bill to provide inspectors and to give government recall. This was not for our meat, but for most everything else. Unfortunately, Tom Coburn felt it was not in the interest of the government to fund this bill with the 300 million dollars it would have taken to make it a reality.

POV: We're running out of time, so this will have to be our last question...

Comment From Debbie
Michelle Obama has been advocating "eating healthy" - do you think this has helped?

Robert Kenner: It's wonderful what she's doing. It helps bring consciousness to more people that this cheap food is costing us too much money.

Robert Kenner: I wish she, instead of saying "drink more water"

Robert Kenner: would say "drink less soda."

POV: Thank you all for joining us today. And thank you for joining us, Robert.

Robert Kenner: It was pleasure talking with everyone.

POV: Any thoughts you'd like to leave with our viewers?

Robert Kenner: If we keep asking questions, that's how we'll change the system. And asking our legislators to take action.

Robert Kenner: I hope that you'll check out FixFood later this year, and join us in taking action.

Robert Kenner: Thank you!

POV: If we didn't get a chance to ask your question or post your comment, please post it again at POV's companion site for Food, Inc. at http://www.pbs.org/pov/foodinc/ or on POV's Facebook page at http://facebook.com/povdocs.

Robert Kenner: Good bye!

POV: Follow POV on Twitter at http://twitter.com/povdocs to find out about our next filmmaker chat!

POV: Bye!





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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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