All progress comes with risk but with something as crucial as the food we eat, the balance of risk and reward in the agricultural industry can literally be a matter of life and death.
Food is essential for life, and farming is at the heart of food production. Big farming in Europe is also very big business, with a €700 billion ($850bn) a year turnover. But not everyone thinks things are going well.
Some large-scale agriculturalists are concerned that their business is losing its edge, that it needs to be more competitive with fewer European Union regulations. They see mechanisation, monocrops, pesticides and GMO (genetic modification) as industry essentials to make Europe an even bigger player, to bring new jobs, foster growth and increase corporate profits.
Their critics, however, think that food production across the continent is already as extractive and toxic as mining. The raw materials of food, they argue, are commoditised, divided up and sold to the highest bidder – and what cannot make a profit goes into food processing. They fear that policy decisions are so influenced by financial markets far from the fields and factories, that producing food is no longer a matter of actually feeding people – and that health and the environment are at risk.
In this documentary, key players from all sides square up and debate Europe’s agribusiness. From industrialists to environmentalists, investigative journalists to bio-agency heads, farmers to epidemiologists, they make their cases. The Price of Progress takes a walk through these complex matters and asks if so-called progress in European food production comes at too great a price to the health and welfare of people and the planet.