That’s why I was surprised, to say the least, when I saw a news release yesterday announcing the showing of the documentary “Food Inc.” at SDSU and the impending campus visit of one of the film’s narrators, Eric Schlosser. The events are being organized by SDSU’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communications (of which I’m proud to say I am a graduate).
Here’s the Wikipedia description of “Food Inc.”: “The film examines corporate farming in the United States, concluding that agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy, in a way that is environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees.”
In other words, the film is a direct attack on much of what the ag department at SDSU stands for. One of the companies attacked in the film, Monsanto, has SDSU President David Chicoine on its board of directors.
In a 2010 interview with me, SDSU Ag Dean Barry Dunn mentioned the film’s other narrator, Michael Pollan, as somebody whose rhetoric Dunn wants to counteract:
“… I think in South Dakota maybe more so than any state I know of, the dean is an ambassador for agriculture — to policymakers in Washington, for example — and I think needs to be a voice for agriculture. You know, I’d love to get in a debate with Michael Pollan about modern agriculture versus agriculture from the 1950s and ’60s.”
I’m not sure if there’s an approval process for film screenings and speakers at SDSU. If this screening and speaker were sent up the administrative chain, kudos to SDSU’s higher-ups for welcoming dissenting opinions (though I have to question why there doesn’t appear to be an opportunity for any of South Dakota’s thousands of agribusiness officials to debate the claims in the film and Schlosser’s speech).
If there is no approval process for these kinds of events and the administration and ag department were surprised by this, there might be some awkward conversations taking place between them and the journalism department.