|The Film ‘Farmageddon’ Says It’s 1984 for Small Farmers|
|Wednesday, 13 July 2011 00:00 | Written by Rick Theis | Review|
The documentary film Farmageddon explores the fine line between consumer protection and government intrusion when it comes to food safety. Certainly we all want wholesome food, but what happens when rules written with agribusiness in mind are inflexibly applied to family farms by overzealous regulators? It often means the latter are harassed to the point of being driven out of business, less choice for consumers and ultimately less healthy food.
Written and directed by Kristin Canty, Farmageddon relies on case studies to show that food-safety reporting requirements have become so onerous that only large factory farms have the resources to comply; many pay full-time staff to handle the work, something smaller operations simply cannot afford.
An early focus of the documentary is small producers of raw milk, which is outlawed or severely restricted across most of the country. Yet there are growing numbers of people, like Canty, who seek it out believing it is healthier than processed milk—not in spite of its large contingent of bacteria, but because of it.
The film points out that until relatively recently, raw milk was the norm. The process of killing all of the bacteria in milk, called pasteurization, reduces the remote chance of a deadly bacteria being carried in the product, but also kills off useful enzymes and healthful bacteria. These days, raw milk is difficult to obtain thanks to officious federal, state and local enforcers of food regulations who find it easier to go after family farms on minor charges than to take on heavily lawyered agribusiness giants.
Canty had a very personal reason for creating the film. She is the mother of four, one of whom had asthma and severe allergies until she cured him by switching to “local raw milk from grass-fed cows.” When she found that farmers, co-ops and buying clubs across the country were being raided for dealing in raw milk, she decided to make a movie about it.
Farmageddon has high production values and a solid human-interest angle. It follows individual farmers and others as their businesses are slowly choked off by raids, forced shut-downs and confiscations of products and equipment—many times unrelated to the laws being enforced, and so seemingly serving only the purpose of harassment.
Some of the police actions are chillingly reminiscent of those depicted in the dystopian classic, 1984. Since when is it necessary for a local sheriff to employ an armed SWAT team to shut down a co-op for selling raw-milk yogurt? Since when should a parent who has found that raw milk cured a longstanding illness in her son have such difficulty obtaining it? These are just two questions that the film Farmageddon skillfully and entertainingly asks.
This is a film that should be seen and acted upon. Regulations need to be made more sensible and flexible. Otherwise, there may be no family farms left and our only choice will be that offered by multinational agribusiness—increasingly processed, irradiated, genetically modified, hormone-laden “food” products that are virtually devoid of vitamins and enzymes, full of chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers, and shipped from long distances. Shouldn’t we be protected from that rather than the healthful bacteria in raw milk?
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