How to Spot a Shockumentary: Food Edition

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GUEST AUTHOR: Leah McGrath | Dietitian and Founder of Build Up Dieticians –  Facebook  | @LeahMcGrathRD


It seems as though every year a food “shockumentary” comes out (GMO OMG, Forks Over Knives, Food Inc etc). I’ve watched some of these and for others just watching the trailer is enough. The latest is “Seed” from PBS. Here’s a quick way you can discern whether you are watching a shockumentary meant to spread fear about our food without having to watch the whole show.

The #Shockumentary Playbook:

1

MUSIC
Sad, haunting music … flutes are especially popular.

2

CENTRAL CASTING
• at least one old weathered yet photogenic farmer, preferably with beard, dressed in worn jeans.
• at least one mom with kids suffering from illnesses attributed to food/pesticide – no proof necessary.
• at least one interview with writer Michael Pollan, eco-primitivist gladfly Vandana Shiva, NYU professor Marion Nestle, or Andrew Kimbrell of the anti-GMO group The Center for Food Safety.

3

MONSANTO
Ample use of Monsanto logo ( not necessary to use any other company logos from companies like Pioneer, Dupont,  or Bayer that also produce GE crops or pesticides. Monsanto, like McDonald’s, is most recognized, so it can stand in for generic Big Ag. You definitely don’t need to mention the fact that university crop breeding programs also develop GE crops. )

4

HAZMAT SUITS
At least one shot of workers in Hazmat suits spraying a field ( don’t bother to mention that when workers spray certain organic pesticides they may also need to wear protective gear. Also don’t mention that what is being sprayed is primarily water and not the pesticide or herbicide)

5

SLOPPY SCIENCE
Exaggerate as much as possible and cite biased research and discredited studies – no one will know.

6

THE BROKEN FOOD SYSTEM
Describe food system as “broken” repeatedly and often. Also use words like “toxic” and “poisonous” to describe food or ingredients in food. ( though technically if food WAS toxic or poisonous people would die, but don’t bother to make that fine point)

7

CANCER
Attribute food and/or pesticides to a multitude of ills, especially cancer because EVERYONE is afraid of cancer. Cite the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen”(Don’t bother to mention that the amount of fruits/veg you’d have to eat to get even close to levels of pesticide deemed harmful is so much that you physically wouldn’t be able to eat that much in one day. And don’t mention that the wife of Stonyfield Organic’s CEO is on EWG board – collusion much?)

8

SHHH, THEY GOT CORPORATE SPONSORS TOO
Don’t bother to disclose that the film is funded by organic brands, distributors/food stores and organic or vegan activist groups – make people dig for that info.

9

CHARMING FARMING VS FACTORY FARMS
Make sure there are plenty of photos of small, quaint farms, farmers markets and organic food stores that are shot in beautiful shimmery lighting. If showing large farm or supermarket make sure lighting is harsh and unflattering.

10

FAT PEOPLE EATING FAST FOOD
Make sure you have at least one shot of someone who is morbidly obese eating a fast food meal.

 [Please consider supporting Food and Farm Discussion Lab with an  ongoing contribution of $1, $2, $3, $5 or $10 a month on Patreon. All contributors receive a subscription to our email newsletter the FAFDL Dispatch. ]


 [Please consider supporting Food and Farm Discussion Lab with an  ongoing contribution of $1, $2, $3, $5 or $10 a month on Patreon. All contributors receive a subscription to our email newsletter the FAFDL Dispatch. ]

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