Sanjay Rawal's New Film "Food Chains" Asks "Is My Food Fair?"

Filmmaker Sanjay Rawal discusses Food Chainshis new documentary investigating the plight of a group of farm workers in Southern Florida who have fought for fair food standards.

Filmmaker Sanjay Rawal is highlighted on Big Think today in a video interview promoting his new documentary Food Chains.














As Rawal explains, the focus of the film is on the plight of farm workers across the United States, though specifically on a small labor camp located 15 miles outside Naples, Florida. Rawal calls it a labor camp because, even though 40,000 people reside there during the winter time, there's no mayor, city council, zip code, or infrastructure. All there is is the the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an organization formed to combat "some of the worst atrocities in this country," ranging from sexual harassment to modern-day slavery with nearly everything in between.

Despite the major mid-to-late 20th century accomplishments of folks like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the United Farm Workers union, organized labor has been pulverized in the United States over the past few decades. Agricultural and domestic workers have, for a myriad array of political, racial and socio-economic reasons, been exempt from national labor standards since they were first introduced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s. Thus, Rawal explains that when you pick up a piece of fruit at your local neighborhood Safeway or Trader Joe's or Wal-Mart, there's virtually no way to know whether that food is the product of fair labor practices or, more likely, the product of an unethical and exploitative system. 

With Food Chains though, Rawal highlights one major exception: the Coalition of Immokalee Workers:

"[They] created a program called the Fair Food Program. And that Fair Food Program is really the only program in the United States that absolutely guarantees that workers in the field earn more than sub poverty level wages and are entitled to a complete spectrum of human rights guarantees. They've gotten 12 major retailers to sign onto that program."

So if you visit Trader Joes or Wal-Mart or Whole Foods in the winter time and pick up a Florida tomato, you're guaranteed to be holding a piece of Fair Food. 

"That's the only product in the entire United States that's absolutely guaranteed without a doubt to be fair labor."

Food Chains hits theatres in in major cities today. Be sure to check out the film's trailer below.

Related Articles

How does alcohol affect your brain?

Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.

(Photo by Angie Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
  • Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
  • Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.

Surprising Science
  • A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
  • It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
  • Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.

Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.

elephant by Guillaume le Clerc

Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons

13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.

It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.

Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.

Why cauliflower is perfect for the keto diet

The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.

Purple cauliflower. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
  • The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
  • It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Keep reading Show less