SDSU students respond to ‘Food Inc.’ author Eric Schlosser | TSLN.com

SDSU students respond to ‘Food Inc.’ author Eric Schlosser

South Dakota State University (SDSU) was the place to be Oct. 19 when investigative journalist and author, Eric Schlosser spoke to a full-house on campus. Schlosser has written reports on migrant farm workings in California, meatpacking workers in Texas and Colorado, as well as documentaries on marijuana growers, pornographers and victims of violent crimes. He’s the king of sensationalism, which might be the reason why his anti-agriculture book, Fast Food Nation and his documentary film, Food Inc. have taken the country by storm.

Schlosser’s visit was sponsored by SDSU’s Journalism and Mass Communications Department. Brought in for his investigative reporting skills, the majority of people in attendance were from the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, ready and willing to defend agriculture against an activist coming to town.

“Fast food advertising show really happy, thin people having fun, as a result in the United States we have a deep relationship with food,” said Schlosser. “Most Americans have never visited a farm, met a farmer, or have any idea of what happens on a farm. Mass culture tells us to be thin, but promotes food to make you fat. As fast food has increased, so has chronic disease. Obesity causes cancer, diabetes and heart disease. One-third of South Dakotan’s will develop diabetes because of being overweight. South Dakota ranks in the top third of the U.S. in diabetes.”

Schlosser went on to criticize the state’s industrial agriculture system, including genetically-modified seeds, manure management systems, feedlot conditions and antibiotic use in livestock. Not surprisingly, the question-and-answer session became quite heated, and following the presentation, three students reflected on his thought-provoking presentation.

“I must say I was very shocked that Eric Schlosser was going to come to a very agricultural-based school of SDSU to speak,” said Trent Kubik, a senior agronomy student at SDSU. “What was much more shocking was that our journalism department brought him here because of his journalistic skills. Much as I expected, there was a very large crowd on hand for his speech. What was really exciting was the large showing of agricultural-based people we had in attendance. At the end of his speech, the farm kid in me could not be held back from questioning some of his statements.”

In his comments to Schlosser, Kubik talked about Norman Borlaug, the leader of the Green Peace revolution and a Noble Prize-award winner, who is credited for feeding over a billion people who otherwise would have starved. Borlaug was dedicated to studying plants and how to better grow them and discovered that organic farming can only feed 4 billion people, unfortunately 5 billion short of the estimated population of the planet by 2050.

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Calli Pritchard, a communications student who grew up on a farm, said some points Schlosser made were relevant.

“Going to Eric Schlosser’s presentation, I was expecting to leave the auditorium shaking my head just full of adrenaline and a tense body, but that did not happen,” Pritchard said. “Although Schlosser has ruffled the feathers of many people, he seems to make some very important and relevant points. Schlosser covered a wide variety of issues within his hour speech covering agriculture. Overall, I was impressed with Schlosser’s presentation. He was extremely careful on his word choice and began his speech with short stories to try and make us like him. He knew that a large percentage of the audience was going to walk in those front doors with a negative opinion of him and his work.

“Schlosser was able to get the audience to at least think about some of his propositions while also proving to the audience that we need everyone who is passionate about the agricultural industry, whether it is through crops or livestock, to stand up for our way of life and become promoters.”

Freshman agriculture student and 2012 National Beef Ambassador John Weber also added his two cents.

“Although Schlosser did criticize much of the agriculture industry, he did credit the beef industry for being more individualized,” recalled Weber. “Overall, I think he has good intentions, but his research only skims the surface and is full of assumptions. Many of the facts he used to support his arguments were either outdated or entirely incorrect. At the end, I left feeling the enormous burden of ambassadors today to spread a more positive message than he left us with that night.”

The reviews varied from Schlosser’s presentation, but ultimately agriculture students in attendance have a renewed sense of purpose to share their ag stories with consumers before activists and sensationalist journalists do the talking for them.

South Dakota State University (SDSU) was the place to be Oct. 19 when investigative journalist and author, Eric Schlosser spoke to a full-house on campus. Schlosser has written reports on migrant farm workings in California, meatpacking workers in Texas and Colorado, as well as documentaries on marijuana growers, pornographers and victims of violent crimes. He’s the king of sensationalism, which might be the reason why his anti-agriculture book, Fast Food Nation and his documentary film, Food Inc. have taken the country by storm.

Schlosser’s visit was sponsored by SDSU’s Journalism and Mass Communications Department. Brought in for his investigative reporting skills, the majority of people in attendance were from the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, ready and willing to defend agriculture against an activist coming to town.

“Fast food advertising show really happy, thin people having fun, as a result in the United States we have a deep relationship with food,” said Schlosser. “Most Americans have never visited a farm, met a farmer, or have any idea of what happens on a farm. Mass culture tells us to be thin, but promotes food to make you fat. As fast food has increased, so has chronic disease. Obesity causes cancer, diabetes and heart disease. One-third of South Dakotan’s will develop diabetes because of being overweight. South Dakota ranks in the top third of the U.S. in diabetes.”

Schlosser went on to criticize the state’s industrial agriculture system, including genetically-modified seeds, manure management systems, feedlot conditions and antibiotic use in livestock. Not surprisingly, the question-and-answer session became quite heated, and following the presentation, three students reflected on his thought-provoking presentation.

“I must say I was very shocked that Eric Schlosser was going to come to a very agricultural-based school of SDSU to speak,” said Trent Kubik, a senior agronomy student at SDSU. “What was much more shocking was that our journalism department brought him here because of his journalistic skills. Much as I expected, there was a very large crowd on hand for his speech. What was really exciting was the large showing of agricultural-based people we had in attendance. At the end of his speech, the farm kid in me could not be held back from questioning some of his statements.”

In his comments to Schlosser, Kubik talked about Norman Borlaug, the leader of the Green Peace revolution and a Noble Prize-award winner, who is credited for feeding over a billion people who otherwise would have starved. Borlaug was dedicated to studying plants and how to better grow them and discovered that organic farming can only feed 4 billion people, unfortunately 5 billion short of the estimated population of the planet by 2050.

Calli Pritchard, a communications student who grew up on a farm, said some points Schlosser made were relevant.

“Going to Eric Schlosser’s presentation, I was expecting to leave the auditorium shaking my head just full of adrenaline and a tense body, but that did not happen,” Pritchard said. “Although Schlosser has ruffled the feathers of many people, he seems to make some very important and relevant points. Schlosser covered a wide variety of issues within his hour speech covering agriculture. Overall, I was impressed with Schlosser’s presentation. He was extremely careful on his word choice and began his speech with short stories to try and make us like him. He knew that a large percentage of the audience was going to walk in those front doors with a negative opinion of him and his work.

“Schlosser was able to get the audience to at least think about some of his propositions while also proving to the audience that we need everyone who is passionate about the agricultural industry, whether it is through crops or livestock, to stand up for our way of life and become promoters.”

Freshman agriculture student and 2012 National Beef Ambassador John Weber also added his two cents.

“Although Schlosser did criticize much of the agriculture industry, he did credit the beef industry for being more individualized,” recalled Weber. “Overall, I think he has good intentions, but his research only skims the surface and is full of assumptions. Many of the facts he used to support his arguments were either outdated or entirely incorrect. At the end, I left feeling the enormous burden of ambassadors today to spread a more positive message than he left us with that night.”

The reviews varied from Schlosser’s presentation, but ultimately agriculture students in attendance have a renewed sense of purpose to share their ag stories with consumers before activists and sensationalist journalists do the talking for them.

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