Food MythBusters

Last week, members of the Veg Society attended an event sponsored by BU Student Government entitled “Food Mythbusters.” The event was a screening of a new short by the same name followed by a brief discussion with representatives of different food and sustainability organizations. Attending the event were students from several student groups, all having a shared interest in food, the environment, and social justice.

The film focused on dispelling some of the myths around our food system. It asserted that we do not need corporate, industrialized agriculture to feed the growing world population. It highlighted that small, organic, local agriculture is just as productive as our current system, and much more sustainable in the long-term.

The individuals in the audience at the event probably did not need to be convinced by the film that corporate controlled agriculture is not the right path. However, the film is a powerful tool to be used when talking about sustainable agriculture with people who aren’t yet on board with these progressive ideas.

While the film touched on important points, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking what the film could have addressed and didn’t. The myths discussed in the film do not top the list of the myths that I often hear when discussing the food system. At the top of my list is the notion that we can eat as much meat, dairy, and eggs as we want and, as long as we use CLF light bulb, ride a bike, and recycle, we don’t have to worry about the impact we are having on the planet.

This film could have been a tool to inform people that animal agriculture is one of the top sources of water and air pollution, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions. It could have highlighted how eating more vegan meals is one of the most powerful ways an individual can help stop the destruction of our planet. These are two topics most discussions of sustainable food like to conveniently avoid, and it’d be nice to have a short, effective film that addresses them.

“Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday.” – The Guardian 6/2/10

I understand that it may be unreasonable for me to expect the film to address the issues that matter most to me, and that it was intended to combat the notion that we need industrial agriculture. However, based on the research I’ve done, we wouldn’t need corporate agriculture if the demand for meat wasn’t so high. The rise in the demand for meat in the last 50 years is correlated with the rise in industrial agriculture. Among local and organic food advocates, it’s popular to criticize the huge monocultures of soy and corn that require massive amounts of artificial fertilizer and pesticides.

However, given that the vast majority of all corn and soy is fed to livestock, it stands to reason that if we didn’t need to feed it to livestock (i.e. if we didn’t eat meat), we wouldn’t need these destructive farming practices. Rather than just arguing against the idea of corporate agriculture, the film could have demonstrated that an individual can fight corporate agriculture with her every day food choices by choosing not to eat meat.

While aspects of the film disappointed me, it was really great to see different student groups come together around such an important issue. I hope to see this kind of collaborative environment at future events.

Graham Boswell is a junior in the College of Fine Arts studying cello performance. He can be reached via email at

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2 thoughts on “Food MythBusters

  1. alivialives says:

    great post! I kinda wanted to reverse your claim, however, that we should be raising more awareness about the impacts of eating more animal products. I know you indicated that industrial agriculture and eating more animal products are related but I wanted to point out that CAFOs probably CAUSE the rise in demand for animal products. So we should raise awareness about and fight against industrial agriculture– the demand for animal products might naturally decline. Nevertheless, we should add the info you mentioned to the fight.

    • Graham Boswell says:

      The point you make- that the use of CAFO’s was probably what caused the rise in demand for meat since it made it cheaper- is not something I had considered, but is probably more accurate and definitely makes sense. That changes my analysis.

      However, I still think that if we didn’t eat meat, we wouldn’t need industrial agriculture. If we didn’t eat meat, we wouldn’t have CAFO’s and wouldn’t need the massive amounts of soy and grain to support the animals at those facilities. So, while I was probably wrong about the rise of industrial ag being consumer driven, I definitely will still argue that the solution to industrial ag must be consumer driven.

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