Who Exercises Power in the Global Economy and How?
Today, the process of globalization has touched upon every sphere of life. The world economy is not the exception. When high developed countries and huge corporations become even more developed and huge, underdeveloped and developing countries cannot compete with them and incur new debts. Among such global corporations, there are Tyson, McDonald’s, Perdue, Smithfield, Monsanto, etc. These food industries own more than 80 percent of the market and compel local farmers to accept their conditions of food production. Thus, globalization helped these corporations become wealthier and develop their economic status so that any other food industry is not able to compete with them. The documentary Food Inc. directed by Robert Kenner dwells on fast food and its harmful effect on the population of the USA. However, the authors of the books The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation, Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser reveal the ugly truth about corporative economic power and Neoliberalism blaming capital accumulation and post-Fordism. Thus, only several huge corporations exercise power in the global economy by owning the biggest part of a stock and influencing small firms to adjust to their rules, which is illustrated in the documentary Food Inc.
Fast Food Nation: Cheap Food As Conscious Choice Of The Americans
The film begins with the story about hamburgers by Eric Schlosser. The man eats a hamburger and tells, “I was raised on this food”. Thus, he emphasizes the importance of fast food for the American nation depicting that fast food is a part of American culture. People consume hamburgers and fries because they are tasty and cheap; however, they do not realize that this food is unhealthy and harmful. In addition, many people do not have time to cook or cannot afford to buy natural and fresh vegetables and fruits preferring hamburgers to broccoli. The movie goes on and shows a working-class family of four people who buy fast food on their way home. The man and woman work on two jobs and have no time to cook, but they need to feed their children and are forced to buy cheap hamburgers instead of expensive organic products. The father of the family has diabetes – the food-caused disease – but he continues to eat cheap food to save more money on medicines. The family is aware of harmfulness of fast food, but they have no choice and buy it because it is more nutritious than fruits and vegetables. Food became an issue of social class. Additionally, Pollan claims that the whole food system is here to blame. Neoliberalism allows huge companies to regulate their profits and deal with the government so that both government and corporations benefit, and the consumers’ demands are not taken into account.
Neoliberalism In Food Industry
In the documentary, Neoliberalism is described in the following way. First, food corporations are self-regulated. It helps them run their business without numerous food inspections and strict quality assurance. Along with that, the companies employ workers for short term and low wages, and no one can influence them. In addition, the government of Washington supports and favors only those companies, which pay enough money to the budget. Schlosser tries to “lift the veil” away from some secrets that are hidden from ordinary people. Thus, he tells that the contemporary industrial food system appeared in the 1930s when fast food restaurants were created. The inventors of the new system were McDonald brothers who fired all their waitresses and implemented conveyor production of food. Such industrialization helped them save money on wages and increase output. The workers were taught to make only one thing, for instance, to fry potatoes, and they got low salary for minimal skills. As a result, the corporation McDonald’s became successful and rich and their restaurants were popular in different states of America. They became the biggest consumers of beef, and this fact made them change the whole system of cows’ cultivation. The same was with potatoes, pork, and chicken, as well as tomatoes, cabbage, and apples. The more fast food restaurants opened all around the state, the more products they needed. Thus, they forced farmers to reorganize their farms and make automation industry increase the products outcome. Consequently, in the 1970s, five huge food corporations controlled 20 percent of beef production, and today, four big corporations control more than 80 percent of beef production. Schlosser claims that even if people do not eat fast food, they consume meat produced for these companies, which means that it is cultivated with the help of different additives. For instance, one of the world biggest corporations, Tyson, invented the method to grow the chicken in 48 days instead of 70 days; also, with the help of special injections and hormones, the chicken become big and meaty. As a result, people consume chicken meat and do not suspect how it was produced. Interestingly, when the farmers who cultivate chicken for such companies as Tyson or Perdue were asked to show their farms on the inside, they agreed, but after several visits of the representatives of the corporations, they refused. In addition, both Tyson and Perdue companies did not want to give an interview for the documentary.
From the above-mentioned excerpt, one can comprehend the power of huge corporations. The movie mentions only food corporations. However, the same is with the other companies, such as Dell, Nokia, HP, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Nescafe, etc. These corporations have seized the world, and now, they regulate global economy using decentralized production. However, the documentary Food Inc. is focused on fast food production, which is injurious to human’s health and, therefore, should be considered as a huge problem of globalization. Thus, despite Neoliberalism, Food Inc. focuses the viewers’ attention on post-Fordism, which means that industrial mass production and mass consumption are the major goals of huge corporations, and they try to “seek new markets and new workers wherever they are most profitable”. For instance, the more hamburgers people buy in the country, the more beef, onions, tomatoes, and salad McDonald’s will produce. As hamburgers are cheap, the raw materials should be cheap as well. Therefore, the corporation will create more and more industrialized manufactures and supply their products to the markets that can sell them in the most profitable way. As a result, small farms have no chances to sell their organic meat or vegetables for a high price because people would prefer cheap meat from a global manufacturer. Consequently, many farmers lose their incomes, get into debts, and after numerous attempts to regulate the situation, they are forced to stop their business or begin to work for those corporations.
Free Trade Agreement
Another example of globalization is North American Free Trade Agreement that led to the fact that Mexican immigrants were forced to come to America because they lost their work in Mexico. Most of these people raised corn in Mexico, and after this agreement, the country was full of cheap American corn. Consequently, many Mexican farmers could not compete with American huge corporations and were forced to stop their business. Then, they began to migrate to the USA to seek for a job and agreed to any conditions because they had no choice. Therefore, cheap workforce allows American companies to continue their business and become richer while investing less money. The flow of workers is so huge that, even if someone refuses to work for low wages, there are many other people who can replace this person immediately. For this reason, food corporations do not improve working conditions for their employees. Their main goal is capital accumulation, which means that they gain profit and invest their capital for more profit thus becoming more and more wealthy. The farms are designed in such a way to produce more products in less time, which leads to quicker enrichment. As a result, the rich companies become richer, and the indigent companies become more indigent. Therefore, there are free trade benefits only for huge corporations or for those who have sponsors and investors to develop their business abroad. On the contrary, small local farms suffer from competition and incur losses.
The worst is that almost nothing can be done against such corporations. They fight for their profits and manage to create special laws, which defend their production and do not allow people to know what kind of food they eat. The governments support these companies and vote for their rules instead of protecting the citizens. For instance, in California State Legislature, the decision to conceal information about meat produced of cloned animals was accepted by the local government in order “to defend” the consumers from unnecessary worry. Thus, people buy meat and do not imagine that the animals were cultivated chemically but not naturally. In addition, other corporations conceal the content of their products, the place of manufacture, and the presence of transgenic fats or GMOs claiming that in such a way, they protect their customers. Everything is controlled by the government, and a single word against, for example, beef production can lead to long litigations and numerous wastes as it happened to Oprah Winfrey. The woman told on air that she would never touch beef again, and Colorado beef company judged her for such words complaining that they sustained losses because of her statement. Carole Morison, a chicken farmer who was invested by Perdue showed her farm on the inside for the documentary, and after her interview, the company Perdue refused to invest in her farm. Thus, the woman lost her biggest purchaser and was left with debts.
Power of Capitalism
After watching the movie, one realizes that huge food corporations are very powerful, and they exercise their power whenever it is possible. Since they own huge capital, they can blackmail family farmers, without being afraid to be judged by the authorities. They pay the government and the authorities so that the latter keep silent. Of course, there is no direct evidence of such corruption in Food Inc. However, there are words of the farmers who suffered from blackmail and threat by such company as Monsanto – a huge corporation, which patents genetically engineered soy beans and ensures that seeds are not refined and preserved by the farmers. The company does it because if the farmers preserve seeds for the next year, they will stop buying Monsanto’s seeds, and it will suffer losses. For this reason, it is easier to pay somebody or threaten the farmers rather than lose their consumers.
The outcomes of mass mechanization and the global economy are terrible. Food production is not controlled, and the conditions of its manufacture are insanitary. For instance, the food safety advocate, Barbara Kowalcyk has lost her 2-years-old son Kevin because of feeding him a hamburger made of infected meat. As it turned out, beef contained E.coli bacteria, which was the result of irregular feeding of animals and mixing healthy carcasses with ill or dead ones. If at least one animal was infected, the whole batch became dangerous as well. Thus, the family bought infected hamburgers, and their little son could not overcome the disease and died. Only after his death, the batch of beef mincemeat was withdrawn from sale. In addition, the companies, which produced meat, did not reconsider the conditions of its production but decided to spray meat with ammonia to kill the bacteria. Consequently, people consume meat processed with chemicals, which are as harmful for their health as infections and bacteria are. Mrs. Kowalcyk claims that she hoped to get some protection from the government, but she did not get it. Unfortunately, she is not a single person who suffered from fast food consumption. The worst thing is that the government cannot help because it is closely associated with the food monopolies, which pay them to keep silence.
Although the documentary recounts of huge corporations, it mentions the word “capitalism” only once. It is the scene when organic food chief executive officer Gary Hirshberg, the representative of Stonyfield Farm, tells, “We’re not going to get rid of capitalism!”. His company produces yogurts, sells them to Danone and supplies them to Wal-Mart. Hirshberg claims that the manufacturers of organic food should not fight against the business but should try to change the situation within it. However, his claim is doubtful since many organic farmers argue that they cannot compete with huge corporations and have to adjust to their conditions losing their organic production. Hirshberg preferred to save his money and sell his yogurts without “organic” labels. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of other farmers who do not want to modify their manufactories but who are forced to do it because of constant pressure from the top.
After watching and re-watching the film Food Inc., it is interesting to learn who exercises power in global economy and how do they do it. The answer is obvious. Huge food corporations lead the world economy; they create the rules, regulate them, and control the government so that no one could influence them. Such situation is the consequence of free trade agreement, as well as post-Fordism and liberalization of international trade. As a result, only several corporations control almost all world manufacturers of those or these commodities. Local farmers have no chances to compete with trade giants, and they have to adjust to the existing rules. People consume cheap and unhealthy products, fall ill, and waste their money on medicines. Consequently, pharmacy business flourishes, and both food corporations and medicine manufacturers benefit. The system is so deeply rooted that it is difficult to overcome it. In addition, the government of the USA is under the influence as well. The major way to control the government is to pay them big money; thus, corruption also takes place in this system. As a result, globalization is beneficial only for those who are already rich; those who are poor have little possibilities to enrich their business. The documentary Food Inc. blames huge food corporations of such conditions. However, there are other sides to blame.
When speaking about globalization, it is important to understand that the consumers play one of the leading roles in the global economy. Along with that, the workers of any company are the consumers as well. It means that if people buy fast food, McDonald’s or Tyson will continue producing low-quality meat and selling cheap products to them. However, if only the consumers start to demand fresh and healthy food globally, i.e. all around the world, the companies will be forced to adjust to their consumers to save their profits. Thus, the population of the world could change the situation if every nation acted together. Although fast food or seed corporations regulate the global economy and sell low-quality products, they do it only because they are in popular demand. Therefore, it is time to change not the process of globalization but the attitude towards it.
After conducting the research, the following implications of the work for the future of capitalism can be distinguished. Although capitalism is efficient for food corporations today, it still has some contradictions, such as morality. Michael Pollan states, “A tension has always existed between the capitalist imperative to maximize efficiency at any cost and the moral imperatives of culture, which historically have served as a counterweight to the moral blindness of the market”. People are not animals, and they have mercy towards living creatures. Thus, when the companies carry it far, the future of capitalism will be at the hazard of failure. The documentary depicts harsh treatment of both animals and workers, and after watching such scenes as well as seeing a little boy who died from E.coli bacteria, many people will change their attitude toward fast food. The population of the USA as well as workers “buy commodities, they also represent a key consumer base whose purchases allow profits to be realized”. Thus, both consumers and workers can change the situation and replace capitalism with something similar to consumerism when people decide what kind of food they will buy and in what way should it be produced. The best outcome of this research would be the fact that people succeed in their aims to get healthy and nutritious food of high quality and not to depend on the huge corporations. On the contrary, these corporations would adjust to the rules and customers’ demands and could not foist off their foods on people. Even if the process of globalization is inevitable, it does not mean that less developed countries should suffer. On the contrary, with the help of local citizens, they can survive within the huge competition of the world corporations. The changes must begin since people become more and more conscious of their demands. If only every citizen of the planet fight for his/her consumer’s rights, the government could not resist and would be forced to establish new rules. The conclusion is the following: everything depends on the people but not on the group of several corporations that got a false idea of their importance because without their consumers, they would have never succeeded.