Humans turned to agriculture thousands of years ago partly because it was an easier way to get calories than hunting and gathering. The shift to farming transformed the world, enabling technological breakthroughs that ushered in the modern era.
But somewhere along the way, the purpose of the global food system evolved beyond providing nutritious food to people and became commercialized, driven not by human well-being but by market incentives.
There’s enough food being produced right now to feed everyone, but producers and sellers are incentivized to waste it rather than distribute it equitably. As a result, more than 3 billion people worldwide are unable to access healthy food, and up to 820 million people suffer from regular hunger.
This commercialization has led to an explosion of health problems as traditional and varied forms of nourishment have been replaced by homogenized alternatives. Looking ahead, the ways in which food is produced — industrial agriculture, large-scale deforestation, assembly line animal slaughter, processed calories — threaten the planet’s ability to even generate food in the first place. In fact, the global food system accounts for nearly a third of the greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling the climate crisis.
Food is a basic human right. Every human deserves to be nourished, to not worry about their next meal, to eat food that helps their body thrive. They also deserve to live alongside food systems that support the regeneration of the planet rather than its destruction.
But how do we transform the global food system to make this possible? How do we incentivize producers to look beyond short-term profit margins and instead prioritize the health and well-being of people and the planet?
The first step is understanding the scope of the problem. Only then can we begin to return to the basic promise of agriculture: to feed people well from the soil.
Here are 11 films that are a must-watch for anyone wanting to know more about how we can transform the global food system.
Now considered a classic, this 2009 documentary takes a close look at the food system in the United States to interrogate how food production and consumption can be improved.
Wasted: The Story of Food Waste
Nearly one third of all the food produced annually gets thrown away. If better managed and equitably distributed, this food could eliminate hunger worldwide. Wasted breaks down why and how so much food is left to gratuitously rot and makes an urgent moral and practical case for combatting this problem.
The overly processed nature of most food items found in grocery stores has sickened people the world over. Fed Up calls on people and policymakers to support and invest in models of food production that promote health rather than harm it.
Kiss the Ground
Industrial agriculture's insistence on chemical interventions for monoculture crops has stripped soil of its nutrients on a global scale. Kiss the Ground explores why promoting healthy soil with sustainable agricultural practices such as crop rotation can both improve food security and combat climate change.
Bees risk extinction from a toxic cocktail of threats — pesticide use, climate change, disease, and habitat loss. Honeyland shows how ancient bee harvesting techniques can help to safeguard bee populations and global food security.
Before the Plate
Farm-to-table has become a popular restaurant term for more authentic cuisine — but what does it actually mean? Before the Plate dives into the supply chains of various ingredients to show what actually goes into your meal.
The Biggest Little Farm
Regenerative farming that supports broader ecosystems is the cure to the desiccating effects of industrial farms. But this type of intentional farming is hard. The Biggest Little Farm shows one family’s attempt to make it possible.
Factory farming has commodified animals in ways that strip them of dignity. In Gunda, director Victor Kossakowsky invites us to inhabit the lives of farm animals to regain sympathy that has been muffled by the overwhelming consumerism of the modern era. Through this meditative practice, perhaps we can prioritize animal welfare in our food system.
Overfishing threatens to hollow out the oceans. Seaspiracy takes an investigative look at the scope of the overfishing crisis and what can be done to stop it.
This urgent documentary explores the brutal scale and everyday reality of the factory farming industry and its impact on the planet. You may adopt a flexitarian diet after witnessing the director’s compelling case for reducing meat consumption.
What the Health
Director Kip Anderson builds on his argument in Cowspiracy in this film focusing on the health risks associated with excessive meat consumption. Doctors and scientists have been increasingly clear in their warning that the meat industry is not only reducing human longevity but also the health of the planet.
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