Read Excerpt: 'Food, Inc.'

What is the the real cost of cheap food?

ByABC News via logo
June 9, 2009, 6:22 PM

June 9, 2009— -- The movie "Food, Inc." provides a shocking look at the world behind the food we eat. Looking at factory farms and regulatory agencies, "Food, Inc." goes into unprecedented detail about the way food gets on our plate and the effects it can have on our bodies.

Expanding on the ideas presented in the film, the book answers questions posed by experts in a series of essays.

Read an excerpt of the book below:

Eric Schlosser is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, the Nation, and the New Yorker. His writing has focused mainly on groups at the margins of American society: illegal immigrants, migrant farm workers, prisoners, the victims of crime. His first book, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American (2001), was an international bestseller, translated into twenty languages. His second book, Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market (2003), explored the underground economy of the United States. In Chew on This (2006), Schlosser and his co-author Charles Wilson introduced young readers to many of the issues and problems arising from industrial food production. Two of Schlosser's plays, Americans (2003) and We the People (2007) have been produced in London. He served as a co-writer and executive producer of the film Fast Food Nation (2006). He also served as an executive producer of the film There Will Be Blood (2007). Schlosser has for many years been researching a book about the American prison system.

Q. Your book Fast Food Nation was one of the landmarks in the development of today's movement to reform the American food production system. Can you talk about how you got involved as a journalist with issues surrounding food, and how Fast Food Nation came to be?

I was introduced to the world of modern food production in the mid-1990s, while researching an article about California's strawberry industry for the Atlantic Monthly. It was an investigative piece about illegal immigrants, the transformation of California agriculture, the exploitation of poor migrant workers. It opened my eyes to the difference between what you see in the supermarket and what you see in the fields--the reality of how our food is produced.

So my interest in the whole subject began from the workers' perspective. At the time, the governor of California, Pete Wilson, was arguing that illegal immigrants were welfare cheats. He claimed they were coming to California to live off taxpayers. Instinctively, that didn't sound right to me. During my visits to California I noticed there were a lot of poor Latinos working very hard at jobs that nobody else seemed willing to do.

The discrepancy between the governor's rhetoric and what I saw with my own eyes made me curious about the actual economic effect of all these illegal immigrants in California. So I began to investigate the subject. And I found that during the same years in which illegal immigration to California had increased, the number of farm workers there had grown, too. In fact, California was becoming increasingly dependent on poor farm workers to pick its fruits and vegetables by hand. And lo and behold, some of the Pete Wilson's largest campaign supporters were California growers who were profiting enormously from the exploitation of illegal immigrants.