Thursday, September 24, 2015

Exploration Four: Fresh Response from Ruksana Kabealo

The most important idea from Fresh was that industrialized farming, including the creation of monocultures, is unsustainable and harmful to both humanity and nature. The evidence was presented mainly through examples and statistics. The film showed the dangers of industrialized farming through footage from industrialized farms, including extensive footage of diseased, sickly animals in cramped, unhealthy quarters. The most important evidence offered in the film was the showcasing of several highly successful natural farming operations. By showing the viewers these farms and their successes, the film simultaneously convinces the viewers that healthy, natural farms can actually function efficiently in practice and that industrialized farming is unnecessary.

If I were going to review the film, I would focus on:
  •       The cinematography. The way the cinematography changes during the interviews, for example, helps the film communicate it’s message more effectively. 
  •       The director. Exposition on the director and why she made the film would provide some context that would help deepen our understanding of the film. 
  •        The primary sources. The use of primary sources, mostly food experts and people who are personally involved in farming/marketing food, is the main reason the film is so convincing. 

One of the biggest strengths of the film was its optimism. Contrary to many of other food documentaries (Food Inc., for example) Fresh educates the viewer on the problem (our food has become industrialized to the point of disaster) and gives the viewer hope not only that the problem can be fixed, but that it can be fixed by them. Too often documentaries focus solely on the problems rather than the problem and the solution. Several readily accessible courses of action are provided to the viewer throughout the movie, from the notion that we’re “voting with our dollar” to the link to at the end. Fresh not only leaves the viewer motivated and hopeful rather than discouraged and scared, but it also actively provides the viewer with avenues to channel that motivation into.

The biggest weakness of the film was the limited referencing for the people being interviewed. The film uses a lot of sources, who are each given too short of an introduction. In some cases, their name and credentials are flashed across the screen for a brief moment and never mentioned again. In addition, the film constantly switches between interviews with each of the sources. Throughout the film I found it difficult to keep track of who was who, and why they were authorized to speak on what they were speaking about.

One of the ideas that struck me most from Fresh was David Ball’s statement that produce is 40% less nutritious today than it was in the 1950s. This statement grabbed my interest, and I decided to investigate further.  

I started my research by looking up “produce is less nutritious today than it was in the 1950s” to see if I could find the original source Ball got this information from. This led me to a synopsis of studies from the University of Texas from 2004. In the studies, the levels of several nutrients (including protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron, riboflavin, and ascorbic acid) in 43 kinds of produce from 1950 were compared to the corresponding nutrient levels in their counterparts in stores from 1999 [1].

As it turns out, the scope of the problem is much larger than what was discussed in the film. The studies found that produce from 1999 contained anywhere from a 5% to 40% drop in nutrients compared to produce from 1950. In broccoli, for example, the calcium and vitamin A content declined by half [3]. The potassium in collard greens dropped from 400mg to 170mg, while their vitamin A content dropped from 6500 IUs (International Units) to 3800 IUs [3].

There is no single determined cause of the nutrient decline in produce, but there are several suspected causes. The synopsis from the University of Texas hypothesizes that food has been selectively bred for size and yield, which comes with a trade-off for nutrient content [1]. However, more research yielded several other theories. One article hypothesized that, over the years, produce has been selectively bred for taste instead of nutrient content. Since many beneficial nutrients have a bitter taste, and getting a more appealing flavor is often a matter of increasing the sugar and starch content, it’s suggested that by breeding for taste we’ve effectively bred most of the nutrients out of our food [4]. Another article suggested that the culprit is monoculture farming, which has depleted the soil nutrients and therefore reduced the overall nutrients being absorbed by the produce [5].


[1] Davis DR, Epp MD, Riordan HD. Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6):669-82. PubMed PMID: 15637215. <>

 [2] Tamar Haspel. “Are Fruits and Veggies Less Nutritious Now?” n.p. n.d. Web. 24 September 2015. <>

[3] Organic Consumers Association. "Is Conventional Produce Declining in Nutritional Value?", n.p. n.d. Web. 24 September 2015. <>

[4] Jo Robinson. “Breeding the Nutrition out of Our Food” Nytimes. The New York Times. 25 May 2013. Web. 24 September 2015. <>

[5] M.J. Stephey. “Eating Your Veggies: Not As Good For You?” Time. 18 February 2009. Web. 24 September 2015. <,8599,1880145,00.html

1 comment:

  1. Ruksana, you really do great research, and you really dug through the different ideas on loss of nutrients and the relationship to taste. Many theories I have read relate to the loss of soil fertility and especially the impact of minerals and all the diverse elements in soil, not just the NPK focused on in most gardening and agriculture. Great job, and all of your sources add to the discussion and our thought process.


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