FEEDING FRENZY - MAN AND FISH IN PERIL
There’s a lot more to what we eat than what we see in our shops, and two new
investigative documentaries opening within a week of each other in May deliver
shocking insights into the hidden worlds of food manufacture (Food Inc, May 20)
and commercial fishing (The End of the Line, May 13). Andrew L. Urban reports.
When British journalist Charles Clover (Environment Editor of London’s Daily
Telegraph at the time) walked into the wrong press conference in 1990 in The
Hague, he learnt first hand about the dramatic effects on marine life of
commercial trawling … it shocked him so much he set off on an investigative
journey of discovery and activism which led first to his book (published by
Ebury in 2004) and then the aptly titled new film, The End of the Line.
"dives deep inside an industry we all take for
Like the investigative docos The Cove (2009) about seal slaughter in Japan,
and Sharkwater (2006), about massive overfishing of sharks to feed the lucrative
trade in shark fins, The End of the Line dives deep inside an industry we all
take for granted and know little about. All we get to see are the neat rows of
fish in our local seafood shop. But heavy duty industrial fishing vessels,
hunting every known species of edible fish, are fast depleting the ocean’s
resources – hard as it is to believe. The trouble is, those in a position to do
anything about it are either unwilling or uninformed. Based on UN figures, the
film suggests that if this continues, there will be virtually no fish left to
harvest by 2048 - 2050.
Scientists, says Clover in the film, recommend that the blue fin tuna catch be
restricted to 15,000 tonnes; but to enable recovery of stocks, that should be
10,000 tonnes. The EU fisheries authority (ICCAT) has mandated a quota of 29,500
tonnes (twice the recommended amount) while the bad boys of the fishing industry
ignore the limit and catch 61,000 tonnes. And nobody’s doing anything to stop
it. That’s a $26 billion catch; most of it illegal. The biggest buyer,
allegedly, is Mitsubishi, according to former tuna fisherman Roberto Mielgo
Bregazzi. In the film Bregazzi claims Mitsubishi is stockpiling the tuna in
large quantities (frozen) which will dramatically increase in value if and when
any action is taken to limit overfishing.
The perils of overfishing are wide ranging for mankind; so are the perils of
food that is mass produced without strict health controls.
"deliberately hidden by corporations feeding their
In Food Inc, filmmaker Robert Kenner argues that health and safety - of the
food itself, of the animals produced themselves, of the workers on the assembly
lines, and of the consumers actually eating the food - are often overlooked in
the giant US food production industry. Worse, much of it is deliberately hidden
by corporations feeding their bottom lines and even by US regulatory agencies
such as the USDA (Dept of Agriculture) and FDA (Food & Drug Admin). Bigger
breasted chickens, herbicide resistant soya beans and limitless supplies of
minced hamburger beef all come at a price – including the danger of e coli
bacteria that causes illness in an estimated 73,000 Americans annually.
Published April 29, 2010
Monsanto, represented as the evil empire in this film, which has patented Round
Up pesticide-resistant Soya beans, takes a dictatorial approach to farmers, with
legal teams and enforcers on the ground generating fear and loathing. It, like
most large food corporations, refused to be interviewed by Kenner, as did the
USA’s biggest meat packing company.
The aim of Food Inc, say the filmmakers, is to shine the light on the underbelly
of an industry that touches everyone; and they succeed. The filmmaking is
technically effective, while some of the footage is confronting; the information
is certainly surprising and at times shocking.
First published in the Sun Herald
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THE END OF THE LINE
(from May 13, 2010)
(from May 20, 2010)