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I have been a vegetarian since I was a teenager. I have been an anti-capitalist just as long. When I look at the world of agri-business, factory farms and the like I am appalled. It makes intuitive sense to me that food is better eaten close to where it was grown, with as few toxic substances involved as possible.

Yet I found myself yelling at Robert Kenner, the maker of the movie ’Food Inc.’ when he was on the Daily Show the other day: “Weak! Weak! Weak! That is bad science!,” I scolded the man on the TV. 

As Mr. Kenner was detailing the horrors of processed, cheap food Jon Stewart asked a simple question: if our diets are so much worse than they were in the 1950s or 60s, why are we living longer? An obvious and important question- one that Mr. Kenner should have had a good, solid answer for.


Kenner had two responses to the question. First he said he thought that the increasing rates of type 2 diabetes would reverse the gains in life span. Uh, maybe, but just saying it doesn’t’ make it so. Second he quoted some statistics about how much we spend on food and health care- we used to spend 18% of our money on food, now we spend 9%, we used to spend 5% of our money on health care, now we spend 18%.


The first part of his ’answer’ was lazy and ultimately meaningless- he sidestepped the fact that his position fails to explain increased life spans by saying, in effect ’trust me, it will soon enough.’

The second part is just simple ’you flunk logic 101’ bad logic. Simply stating, as he does, that the cost of health care has risen at the same time that the price of food has gone down and more than implying there is a causal relationship is the weakest logic.

Logic 101: a temporal relationship (two or more things being related by time) does not prove causality. Both televisions and cars have become much more widespread over the past 50 years. World wide life expectance has risen. This is even more so in countries where cars and TVs are the most widespread. So, cars and TV make people live longer!?

In all fairness the movie might do a much better job at making this case. I am going to see it and will withhold judgment until I have. Nonetheless this kind of thing makes me cranky- especially when it comes from someone whose side I am inclined to take. 

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