Documentary spotlights food industry monopolies

By Ronald Caldero/Contributing Writer February 24, 2010

Eating your vegetables may not be so good for you after all – at least the ones available to you at your favorite supermarket.

What exactly is the problem with supermarket carrots? That’s what the environmentally and socially conscious documentary, Fresh, will be explaining to FIU students on March 3 at 6:30 p.m. in GC 150, free of charge. More importantly, the film will show that there are people already working on a solution, and how you can join them.

Fresh touches on the issue of the over-industrialization of our food; the fact that the entirety of the United State’s production is controlled by three or four major corporations, and that they would rather mass produce hormone-fed chicken as cheaply as possible than deliver quality poultry.

This, and many other factual horrors of this industry, were the focus of 2008’s Academy Award nominated documentary Food Inc., and while Fresh revisits this sad but true scenario, its message is one of hope.

This film hopes to show you that the grass can indeed be greener on the other side.

Produced and directed by Portuguese filmmaker Ana Joanes, Fresh is a 72-minute documentary showcasing the people that are taking control of their food back from the big corporate suits by growing fruits, vegetables and even raising pigs and cows in community-based organic farms.

You will be introduced to all-natural cowboys in Virginia, supermarkets in Kansas stocking their shelves with local produce, and a three-acre organic garden in the middle of urban Milwaukee.

Now, you may think this movie is just a nod to the organic trend that is getting more popular among health enthusiasts and the businesses that cater to them, but it really goes beyond that.

Fresh is not only about going organic, but going sustainable as well.

FIU alumnus Stephan Nesvacil, 51, is the man behind the screening of the film at FIU. While working on his thesis on modern agriculture last year, he found out about the documentary and, thanks to a grant from FIU’s Agro-Ecology Program, he acquired a license to show it on campus. He explained the concept of food security or sustainability.

“The current model for food distribution in the U.S. is to grow it wherever it is cheapest and then ship it to wherever it is to be sold. You can see a future where oil will reach such a price that it will make this scheme no longer profitable to these corporations,” Nesvacil said.

Add to that the fact that because crops and livestock are grown in such an unnatural way, more chemicals must be pumped into them each year to maintain yields, and you get a practice that cannot possibly continue forever.

“By decentralizing food and growing it locally, we are securing our food sources and, by doing it organically, we are doing so in a sustainable way,” Nesvacil added.

This is the message that both Stephan and the co-director of FIU’s Agro-Ecology Program, Mahadev G. Bhat, wish to transmit to students through this documentary.

Bhat hopes the film will raise awareness of this very important issue among FIU students, most of which have no idea what’s going on with their food.

Mike Paez, 23, said that, while he did know something about the industry’s damaging practices, he didn’t know about any alternatives.

“I think it’s important for this food sustainability message to get out there, because it at least shows a step in the right direction,” he said.

If you want to start going organic, you need not look too far.

Members of the University’s Garden Club set up shop every Wednesday, from 12 to 3 p.m. behind the Green Library at the Modesto Maidique Campus. Everything they sell is organic, and most of it is grown in the club’s own garden.