August 9, 2011 Update
POV: Have there been any new developments since last year’s broadcast?
Robert Kenner: A version of Kevin’s Law passed Congress. (Kevin, the son of Barb Kowalcyk, is the boy who died from eating a contaminated burger.) President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act, giving the Food and Drug Administration power to inspect high-risk facilities, test for pathogens and order the recall of contaminated food. But now Tom Coburn, a Republican senator from Oklahoma, is fighting to cut its funding. These new safety measures will cost $300 million a year. Putting that in perspective, the annual cost of foodborne illness in the United States is 300 times that number — about $100 billion. If we’re truly serious about reducing our deficit, wouldn’t we want to support food safety measures?
There’s also been a lot of GMO activity. The Department of Agriculture approved the use of genetically modified alfalfa without any restrictions. The FDA is seriously considering whether to approve the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption — salmon that can grow at twice the normal rate. Next in the pipeline, we’re hearing, is an “enviropig” with less phosphorus pollution in its manure. The question I ask is, Shouldn’t these products be labeled GMO? Shouldn’t we have the right to know what’s in our food?
Do you have any updates on any of the other subjects from Food, Inc.?
Kenner:Carole Morison has made the decision to transition her hen operation. She’s moving from conventionally raised to pasture-based, antibiotic-free practices. Her operation will be certified by Animal Welfare Approved, the country’s highest standard for humanely raised farm animals.
Are you working on any new projects in the food arena?
Kenner: We’re putting together a new project called FixFood, launching in October. It will be an experiment in using video and social media to help bring about change in our food system. I’m really excited by the possibilities and think social media will play an increasing role in filmmaking. FixFood is about encouraging the public to take action. We’re going to have very clear asks, things that viewers can do right after watching our videos. The goal, ultimately, is to help bring healthier, more sustainable food to families everywhere.
April 21, 2010 Update
POV: Food, Inc. has received so much critical acclaim and was even nominated for an Academy Award. What in all of this has been the most important outcome for you after spending years making Food, Inc.?
Robert Kenner: Food, Inc. is part of a growing food movement. It’s a very passionate movement that overlaps with the environmental movement and
includes people concerned about animal welfare, worker’s rights, national health, and limits on corporate power. The impact of this movement will fundamentally change the food that we’re eating, which is important because without significant changes, affordable health care in this country will not be possible.
We were invited to Washington to screen for the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture who said if you build a movement we will follow. They don’t want to get out in front, but if people are ready to stand up and fight for it, it becomes much easier for Washington to make changes. The U.S. Attorney General subsequently held hearings about monopolistic practices in regards to Monsanto. Hopefully this is the beginning of a formal investigation into Monsanto’s total control of certain areas of the seed market.
What impact has the film had in terms of substantive change?
Kenner: The health care bill includes a law providing menu labeling (something the film addressed) which is fantastic to see. Barb wrote about what’s happening with Kevin’s law and the FDA in her section.
What change would you still like to see?
Kenner: Important changes are starting to happen, but what I would most like to see is more transparency. We should have the right to know what we’re eating. If we live in a free society, in a free market people should be able to make choices based on information and at the moment we’re being denied a lot of that information.
What do you hope viewers will do after watching the film?
Kenner: I would hope that viewers become conscious that their eating habits have major consequences beyond just their health. The big goal of Food, Inc. was to get people to recognize that their choices really matter and to vote three times a day about this food system — to vote on behalf of ourselves, the workers, and ultimately our planet.
What has surprised you most in terms of the impact that the film has
had in the United States? Globally?
Kenner: I was surprised and thrilled that the film has appealed to audiences across ideological camps. Evangelical groups have been distributing the film to their congregations and recently in London, Rupert Murdoch distributed tens of thousands of Food, Inc. DVDs with the London Sunday Times.
What are you working on now?
Kenner: I’m working on a series of films about sustainability, a film about unchecked corporate power, and a film for HBO about online relationships.