Language as a Barometer of Influence (Critique of Food Inc.)

I will, in the future, post something on Big Pharma. But for now, this will deal with Big Ag.

I got to see a friend I haven’t in a long time. We hung out for a few hours, had a couple of beers, I made some burgers on the grill, enjoyed our 80[+] degree weather we had in SoCal. During our time together, he mentioned a documentary, Food Inc., then mentioned another about “Big Pharma.” I was surprised he didn’t refer to “Big Ag,” for corporate agriculture, but I digress. I mentioned that he was using LANGUAGE only someone who was liberal would use (no conservative that knows his/her hill o’ beans talks like that… to wit… he denied being political at all. Which is an interesting point. I mentioned to him that while HE may not be “political,” he was using POLITICAL language encapsulated by the left.

It doesn’t matter that he considers himself a-political, he is using the lenses supplied him by pop-culture to view the world, and it is one that is modeled after liberalism. He is jaundiced, whether he realizes it or not. While the following deals with specifically the Christian worldview, it can be imported into the political realm:

A personal philosophy/religious belief determines one’s world view. That world view influences their actions, actions create habits; habits establish traditions and those traditions eventually become a culture. Have you wondered how that two different scientists with identical credentials can look at the same empirical data and have two very different conclusions? Here’s why. A scientist that does not believe in a creator-God (Atheist) looks at the similarities of humans and monkeys, and concludes that one must have evolved from the other, while a scientist that does believe in a creator-God (Theist) sees those same similarities and concludes that they must have had the same creator. Why? It’s all about their world views! (via The Christian Post)

R & D Costs for “Big Pharma”

This comes via ChEMBL-og:

Came across a link on Google+ to a post to a Forbes article (via Greg Landrum) and thought I would post a link here. It’s a simple economic analysis of the costs of Large Pharma drug discovery. Very simple, money in vs. drugs out. There is however a lot of complexity behind the numbers, for example – quite a few of the drugs will have been licensed in, the transaction costs for these in-licensing events have probably been factored in, but what about all the other burnt capital in the biotech companies that supplied the in-licensed compounds – this will inflate the numbers further. Of course the majority of these costs are incurred on the failed projects, the wrong targets, the wrong compounds, or the wrong trials.

To put the AstraZeneca number of $11.8 billion per drug in some national context (equivalent to £7.5 billion) – this is almost 17 years of the entire BBRSC budget (£445 million in 2011), or only two drugs from the entire investment portfolio of the mighty assets of the Wellcome Trust (~£14 billion in 2011) – that’s right, not two drugs from their annual research budget, but two drugs by shutting down the investment fund and putting it all into drug discovery and development (at Astra Zeneca ROI levels).

Scary numbers, eh? Are public funding agencies up to the task? Do we really know what to do differently? There’s also a post on the same Forbes article on the In The Pipeline blog.

(An updated Forbes article is HERE)

The problem is, that often times the person in question doesn’t realize they are wearing colored filters over their eyes. Francis Schaeffer, the indelible Christian philosopher of a generation ago, says this about the “low-info ‘voter'”:

“People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By ‘presuppositions’ we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic worldview, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People’s presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions. ‘As a man thinketh, so he is,’ is really profound. An individual is not just the product of the forces around him. He has a mind, an inner world. Then, having thought, a person can bring forth actions into the external world and thus influence it. People are apt to look at the outer theater of action, forgetting the actor who “lives in the mind” and who therefore is the true actor in the external world. The inner thought world determines the outward action. Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles. But people with more understanding realize that their presuppositions should be chosen after a careful consideration of what worldview is true. When all is done, when all the alternatives have been explored, ‘not many men are in the room’ — that is, although worldviews have many variations, there are not many basic worldviews or presuppositions.”

Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture, pp. 19-20

The origins of his starting point ~ a self-perceived neutrality in political thought for instance ~ makes no difference. It is the outcome that matters! That points to the presupposition held, perceived [known] or not. And the outcome that puts thoughts into containers that produce language point to a view which is decidedly liberal. Perceived or not. My friend just does not have the tools at his disposal to see the “rose colored glasses” he wears.

And it comes from crappy documentaries about pop-culture has fallen in love with and HBO [a decidely leftist org] and others push on us. Documentaries about McDonalds, Wal-Mart, fracking, water bottles, health-care, Columbine, global warming, and yes, food.

Years of documentaries that people watch — WITHOUT watching documentaries or finding information to counter the [often times] lies and twisted facts that accompany such “films,” drive this societal influence. Really, they are modern day horror films, for the mushy mind. One reviewer puts it in “campy horror flick” terms:

I unlock this door with the key of trepidation. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of underground. A dimension of fright. A dimension of rewind. I’m moving into a land of shadow and more shadow, of bewilderingly dumb ideas. I just crossed over into the Leawood Theatre.

We each have our personal Twilight Zone. Mine is here. In the basement theater of a half-century old strip mall in suburban Kansas City. Once well-attended, then abandoned to the wasteland of discount theater of the 80s, it suffered the final indignity of becoming a storage vault, only to be completely gutted and resurrected today to cinema status. As the double glass doors hiss shut behind me for the first time in 25 years, my soles suction one-by-one to a laminate floor, ashen as a corpse, decorated in accents the color of dirty snow to camouflage cracks, dirt, cockroaches and time. Past an old letter board, the mall tenants’ names leering like a toothless grin, errant and neglected grey letters drifted inevitably to the bottom like a neglected pile of autumn leaves. A hesitant descent down an open stairwell of gum-spotted teal ceramic tile and wood paneling of ebony contact paper dispels me at last into an echoing cavern of desolate shopfronts, save a solitary manned theatre ticket window.

The attendant slides forward my credit card and $6.50 receipt from the pool of shadow inside, in the process exposing the pale flesh of his forearm. His skin is a canvas, tattooed in a leering blue-green visage of a hunched vampire – Nosferatu, 1922’s first film fiend (who was eventually banished to the cinematic undead by the simple misfortune of being cast as the unpronounceable German counterpart when the studio couldn’t afford rights to the real Dracula of Bram Stoker.) Past the fraying scarlet rope and down a low-ceilinged hallway so narrow I have to turn sideways to maneuver past an exiting patron, I step finally into the cavernous blackness of 72 seats minus five occupied. And sit. Turns out, Leawood Theatre is the perfect place for me to see Food Inc.

A great article by the way, entitled, The Horror Show that Just Won’t Die. I find his encapsulating the masses as bright eyed, bubble gum chewing teenyboppers seeing for the first time the giant machine of the food industry, and being, surprised by it… but for all the wrong reasons:

The audience may take a bite, and because there is so much icing of factual inaccuracy, so many empty calories of cinematic wizadry, they won’t taste the unpalatable that lies beneath.

Agriculture’s response to those factual inaccuracies and open prejudice in Food Inc. has been predictable. Some of it’s been measured, calm and to the point. Some has been ham-handed, laggard and obscured by PR-eze. Typical of the fact-based response, the website SafeFoodInc.org, posted by an alliance of associations that represent the livestock, meat and poultry industries, complained “the makers of “Food, Inc.” and the subjects they interview seek to paint our industries as big, bad and mechanized. They seek to prove their point through a selective use of the facts. While the makers of “Food, Inc.” have the right to state their opinions, consumers and the media have the right to the facts.”

But the point Big Ag’s defenders appear to have missed, hiding behind the closet door as they rush like giggling teens into their factual defense of farming, is that Kenner et al’s attack on the factual integrity of agriculture is ultimately irrelevant. We’ve all been there, done that, lived to plow another day. What pass unnoticed are the deeper messages lying beneath Kenner’s factual surface, smooth and calm as an impending Camp Crystal Lake murder. It’s both fashionable and highly effective to position the food system as hopelessly and irretrievable broken, thus in need of complete reform and overhaul. And because consumers react with a guttural fear to an issue as personal as their food, it works—factual or not. But carried along in that message are the deeper fears Kenner’s selling—phobia of industrialization, consolidation, specialization, big corporations, even freedom and free-enterprise capitalism itself. It’s a story that comes, stake and hammer in hand, pretending to be hunting the lowly hunchback Igor of an unhealthy food system while in fact hoping to catch the Demon Prince of a heartless capitalist U.S. in a vulnerable slumber.

Food Inc. succeeds not by pulling back the veil on its own unpopular political inclinations, but by obscuring them behind the gee-whiz….

[….]

….Kenner and his servants deploy the shock of seeing the food system for the first time–shocking and amazing the innocents who don’t make it their job to think about it daily. It capitalizes on the modern urban pet owner’s inability to grasp the living scale of a 100,000-head capacity beef feedyard. It flash-frames the ungraspable idea of compressing the genetic manipulation of plants and animals farmers have pursued for centuries down into a week’s worth of laboratory work. It all makes for great show. But, ultimately robbed of any true underlying evil, it becomes Freddie vs. Jason or Alien vs. Predator …all gore and no fear, what Lady Gaga is to erotic cinema—overly costumed, predictable, empty, passionless and, finally, boring.

I use to go out of my way to see documentaries like this… but I noticed a “‘Moorian’ formula,” if-you-will. For instance, in Farenheit 9/11, one reviewer, Doc Farmer, talks about this:

A half-truth is the worst kind of lie…

…Michael Moore spends two tortuous hours spinning half-truths, supposition, perverted imaginings, and out-and-out lies across the screen, polluting the celluloid it inhabits, and the theater it pervades. Moore apparently was upset that his movie didn’t get a PG-13 rating so that kids could see it. Considering the ”liberal” use of the F-word in one segment of the film, and the horrific images of war interspersed with film of the high government officials in tie and tails, I would have given it an X.

Moore is a modern-day Leni Riefenstahl, with all the evil politics but without the talent. It is propaganda, (im)pure and simple(istic). Moore tugs at the heartstrings, makes racist comments about the enlistment practices of the military, and stands at a street corner like a Harkonnen baron without the suspensor units, accosting congressmen to have their children enlist and volunteer for Iraq. He posits his own form of neo-fascism, supporting his lib/dem/soc/commie brethren (who are far closer to the Nazi political structure than are the rep/cons), and dares to quote George Orwell in reference to George Bush, when it is Moore himself who is far more representative of the communist body politic.

And this is it, half-truths that “tug at heart-strings,” making these twisted views seem like they are the case, when they are not. So lets deal with some views that counter the outcome wanted from Food Inc.

Farming Land

The film goes far beyond even propaganda by making intentional misrepresentations, lies and distortions. The first example is a logical conclusion of an option presented in the film to raising chickens to sell on the market. The farming techniques of Joel Salatin, highlighted below… and their logical outcome:

“Food, Inc.” features Joel Salatin and his Polyface Farm in Virginia as a model of animal and crop production. Although Mr. Salatin’s methods are charming and offer a platform for his speaking business, they are not very practical when it comes to feeding several hundred of million people.

Mr. Salatin practices “pastured poultry.” He uses 50 portable wooden pens that hold about 70 chickens each, and his helpers move them ten feet each day – by hand — to a new patch of grass, for the 56 days it takes to grow them to market weight. The chickens nibble on grass and eat insects, although they still get commercial feed because chickens have limited ability to metabolize nutrients from grass. Their manure fertilizes the pasture. Nothing wrong with that. But this system produces only 10,000 broilers a year on 100 acres, in flocks of 3,500 birds. If the mainstream commercial chicken industry tried to raise its annual production of nine billion birds in a similar fashion, it would need 45 million acres! That’s more than all the farmland in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas – combined.

(Safe Food Inc)

To wit, Dennis Avery talks about percentage of farmland vs. population and “High Yield Conservation” (HYC) vs. what organic farming can yield. It (HYC) conserves space and protects wildlife:

Continuing, Safe Food inc makes the point about the movement to return to older farming methods and how that will harm the land and ultimately starve the population:

Technical advances in genetics, production and processing have helped create a meat and poultry production system that today requires less feed to produce a pound of meat.

Advocates of the “slow food” model argue for a return to older and less efficient methods of production, believing that this food ultimately is healthier for people and the environment. Others disagree.

According to a 2008 Time Magazine article “a worldwide Slow Food initiative might lead to turning more forests into farmland. (To feed the U.S. alone with organic food, we’d need 40 million farmers, up from 1 million today.) In a recent editorial, FAO director-general Jacques Diouf pointed out that the world will need to double food production by 2050 and that to suggest organics can solve the challenge is ‘dangerously irresponsible.'”

Starvation, Death

Safe Food Inc quotes a source for the above, but I wanted to expand on what the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said:

“We should use organic agriculture and promote it,” Dr. Diouf said. “It produces wholesome, nutritious food and represents a growing source of income for developed and developing countries. But you cannot feed six billion people today and nine billion in 2050 without judicious use of chemical fertilizers.”

Now you see where the horror is misplaced that earlier, Truth in Food said Food Inc “follows in the footsteps of other modern campy horror flicks: Splashy, escapist and horrifying for all the wrong reasons

Similarly, like environmentalists terrifying the masses about DDT, what was truly terrifying was that they killed millions of Africans with their unfounded fears. While environmentalists view their own concerns as noble, well-placed, wrought with good intentions. The outcome is what i am concerned with:

These are the people who coerced nations worldwide into banning DDT. It is generally estimated this ban has led to the deaths of about 50 million human beings, overwhelmingly African children, from malaria. DDT kills the mosquito that spreads malaria to human beings.

US News and World Report writer Carrie Lukas reported in 2010, “Fortunately, in September 2006, the World Health Organization announced a change in policy: It now recommends DDT for indoor use to fight malaria. The organization’s Dr. Anarfi Asamoa-Baah explained, ‘The scientific and programmatic evidence clearly supports this reassessment. Indoor residual spraying (IRS) is useful to quickly reduce the number of infections caused by malaria-carrying mosquitoes. IRS has proven to be just as cost effective as other malaria prevention measures and DDT presents no health risk when used properly.'”

Though Lukas blames environmentalists for tens of millions of deaths, she nevertheless describes environmentalists as “undoubtedly well-intentioned.”

(Prager)

This kind of helpful hand from “Big-Eco” or “Big-Gov”is what caused Reagan to say that the “nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” C.S. Lewis years earlier said it more forcefully:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, p. 292.

Another misconception in the documentary is that chickens are genetically modified. They are not. Breeding is done the ol’ fashion way, by intelligent selection.

E.coli

Another issue I have with Food Inc. is the portrayal of Pigs grown indoors versus outdoors.

Some of these concerns I have are a twisting of the facts, and really, downright lies. The film mentioned that E. coli O157:H7 could be eliminated or reduced by feeding cattle grass instead of grain. The next question the viewer should have, is, “is this a true statement?” No, it is not. A large veterinary study shows that it exists naturally in the environment, and that hay- or frade-fed cattle have it as well. Studies do show some feeding regimens increase the risk, but these facilities spend multiple millions to excise their cattle of it.

Global Warming

Greenhouse gases are not the contributing factor to global warming. The major greenhouse gas that is demonized is CO2, and as we know, yes know, global warming gas ceased during the time of the biggest increase in this major greenhouse gas:

Obviously, Then, CO2 and Climate Are Not Connected…

Even the IPCC and British Meteorological Office now recognize that average global temperatures haven’t budged in almost 17 years. Little evidence suggests that sea level rise, storms, droughts, polar ice and temperatures or other weather and climate events and trends display any statistically significant difference from what Earth and mankind have experienced over the last 100-plus years…

~Via, John Kerry vs. the World (as in earth)

It is unfortunate that people cannot connect the dots in this regards, that sunspots, and its energy is the driving force of climate.

Outdoor vs Indoor

Another glaring misrepresentation of facts by tugging on heart-strings in the documentary are the indoor facilities of to-market pig. Modern advancements has made safer, cleaner, and more humane conditions for these animals that are meant for going to market. One farmer explains his issue with Food Inc:

Another myth is that these ways of raising pigs is not healthy. For instance, Safe Food Inc points out that it has been proven that pigs produced in outdoor systems are in fact, carriers of serious disease causing organisms:

…particularly those raised antibiotic-free for niche markets may harbor parasites (such as Trichinella and Toxoplasma) that are not found in pigs produced in indoor systems. Likewise, the incidence of Salmonella infection in pigs produced in outdoor systems is shown to be higher. Researchers from Ohio State University have stated that these systems carry risks that “may lead to persistence of bacterial (Salmonella) pathogens and reemergence of parasites (such as Trichinella) of historical significance.”

More

Of course more can be said about this topic, but above are the beginnings of allowing a rational person to start a search, to “hold fast that which is good.”

“…don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, The Message)

Last I checked, God can’t stomach liars (Proverbs 12:22a). It’s just that our culture doesn’t teach the masses to distinguish between something that is true, a lie, or somewhere in the middle. So people are walking around like “little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit” (Ephesians 4:14, HCSB). Fulfilling in some way what G.K. Chesterton said: “When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.” Likewise, people

Raising one’s self-consciousness [awareness] about worldviews is an essential part of intellectual maturity…. The right eyeglasses can put the world into clearer focus, and the correct worldview can function in much the same way. When someone looks at the world from the perspective of the wrong worldview, the world won’t make much sense to him. Or what he thinks makes sense will, in fact, be wrong in important respects. Putting on the right conceptual scheme, that is, viewing the world through the correct worldview, can have important repercussions for the rest of the person’s understanding of events and ideas…. Instead of thinking of Christianity as a collection of theological bits and pieces to be believed or debated, we should approach our faith as a conceptual system, as a total world-and-life view.

Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 9, 17-18, 19.

Our total worldview requires us to be thoughtful about all we undertake… even inane documentaries that surely cause those who mention them and recommend them in general conversation who do not know about worldviews to respond with (after reading this), it doesn’t matter anyways. Ahhh, but it does. Are you being molded by society, or are you affecting society?

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