And yeah, as advertised, it puts me off highly processed foods. Although most of the revelations I already knew from reading Eric Schlosser's excellent Fast Food Nation (Schlosser is a co-producer and appears as a font of information for much of the film). Reading his book I already knew about the unsafe, unsanitary, factory "disassembly" line process for slaughtering meat and creating uniform (uniformly bad) food. And I knew how it has led to injury and death of workers and customers (there's an interesting line in the movie that asks if the companies have so little regard for the animals they raise, what makes you think they'll care about their workers or customers. A bit over-the-top, but interesting).
One new bit (or at least a bit I had forgotten if I ever knew it) was about the patenting of life. Monsanto Corp. won a case in the Supreme Court (majority opinion written by former Monsanto attorney Clarence Thomas) that it can patent a gene as intellectual property. For generations, farmers worked by saving the best seeds from previous years and planting them next year. This ruling rendered seed saving illegal--at least if you're using Monsanto seeds. Now here's the kicker. If you don't plant Monsanto seeds, but your neighbors do, and their seeds blow over onto your property, you've got Monsanto seeds in your fields. If you save your seeds, and don't (because you can't) filter out any Monsanto patented genes, you're breaking the law, and Monsanto will come after you. If you clean seeds for farmers who don't plant Monsanto (again, a practice for generations), you can be sued for promoting a technology that encourages law-breaking. This absolutely shocked me.
But overall, I found this more fearmongering than informative. It ends on a hopeful note, that consumers have more power than we think--Wal-Mart has a large organic section, and milk with growth hormone is almost non-existent. But it's remarkably short on specific actions you can take to affect the system and/or at least eat healthier yourself. When you say "read the labels", why don't you tell me what to look for (is all the information you want even on the label)? The movie is clearly pro-organic, but how big of a difference is there between the organic section in your supermarket vs. a farmer's market (for example)? And then there's my biggest question. In Fast Food Nation, In-n-Out was singled out as a rare example of a good fast food company. They use fresher ingredients, treat their employees better (higher wages and benefits), etc. Are they still one of the "good guys"? What I really want to know, would this movie regard me as part of the problem if I continued eating there (occasionally). Because if loving In-n-Out is wrong, I don't want to be right!