In my humble opinion, documentary filmmaking is one of the most important, cultural art forms on the planet. It educates, inspires, and motivates people to take action. A well made documentary can right wrongs. (Errol Morris’ “Thin Blue Line” actually helped get an innocent man off death row.) Movies like Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Inside Job, The Fog of War, and Food Inc. are just a tiny handful of films that have opened the eyes of the public. Speaking of Food Inc, it is probably the first movie that comes to mind when you think about the horrors of our current food and agricultural industry and it’s affect on our health. (Watching that movie turned me off meat for a long, long time. Even now I do it in extreme moderation). Produced by Participant Media (the production company behind another blockbuster doc, An Inconvenient Truth), it exposes the practices of large multi-national companies like Monsanto, Tyson Foods and others to control the “food chain” (literally) and the dire consequences we as an omnivorous culture are enduring because of it.
But, I just watched a movie that came out four years earlier than Food Inc. One that actually goes into a little more detail about some of the topics covered in Food Inc. A movie that has such incredulous facts, much of it sounds like something out of a David E. Kelly legal drama. But it’s all real. The movie is called The Future of Food, written, produce and directed by Deborah Koons Garcia, third wife and widow to legendary “Grateful Dead” front-man Jerry Garcia. I can’t stress this enough. You need to watch this movie today.
Here are just five things covered in the film that blow my mind:
- Elderly Canadian farmers Percy and Louise Schmeiser are sued by Monsanto because their crops became contaminated with Monsanto’s patented canola seeds. They didn’t buy the seeds. They didn’t ask for the seeds. The seeds did what God designed seeds to do. Blow around and germinate. This elderly man and his wife lost the court case and had to destroy 50 years worth of seeds their family had saved. (Note: They appealed and the case came to a draw a few years later. They did not have to pay Monsanto, but the stress and damage was already done. Not to mention how much in legal fees.) Read the details of their story here.
- A significant number of government officials in the EPA, FDA, as well as the executive and judicial branches of government, have been past Monsanto executives, board members, or legal counsel, including Linda Fisher, Clarence Thomas and Donald Rumsfeld. Ex-US Attorney General John Ashcroft, who held up judicial rulings supporting genetic patents, was the recipient of Monanto’s largest campaign contribution in his 2000 senate race).
- Large multi-national pharmaceuticals (not named in the film) sued universities that were developing a cure for breast cancer to halt their research because they were using patented genes owned by these companies and could not pay the exorbitant patent fees. (Was that a run-on sentence?)
- A primary reason for world hunger is not LACK of food. There is plenty of food on this planet to feed everyone. It’s an issue of access to food. Many third-world countries, in order to pay for the massive amounts of debt they racked up with world banks, had to kick farmers off their lands in order to grow expensive export crops. People who subsisted on cultivating the land for themselves, were now on the streets of the slums.
- A “suicide” agriculture gene has been patented, called a “Terminator Gene“. This strain of seed, once planted, grows plants with seeds that are sterile. It will not yield additional crops. Although not currently used commercially, the commercial benefits are obvious. Farmers would have to buy additional seeds every season. (In actuality, any farmers using Monsanto’s seeds have to do that any way because by law they cannot save seeds. A practice farmers have done for millennia). That ramifications of the terminator gene are scary on an apocalyptic scale. Imagine if that strain got out and cross pollinated with crops of the world?
I could go on, but you have to watch this movie for yourself.
It’s Not a Right or Left Issue
As politics go in general, I am a-political. Politics for the most part bore me. If I were to pick a side, I would most likely be just slightly to the right (but barely. 🙂 But this issue is not one of left-wing or right-wing politics. It’s one of health. Of knowledge. Of doing what is right (as in opposite of wrong). We as a society rarely educate ourselves, and this is one area where you cannot afford to be ignorant. Your life could literally be in stake.
I know at times I may seem to favor hyperbole. But I save hyperbole for provocative blog post titles and tweets. 🙂 I think when you actually read my blogs posts, you’ll see that I present arguments in a very level-headed manner. Only in cases of extreme injustice or social issues of critical importance to me will I make such emphatic and passionate pleas. This is one such area.
Watch the Film and Decide for Yourself
You can watch the film in its entirety online at film’s official website, or streaming on Netflix if you want a larger view. Below is the opening 9 minutes of the film to give you a taste. Take time to watch this film with your family tonight. Then come back here and let us know what you thought.
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P.S. On the topic of documentary filmmakers, I only consider Michael Moore films documentaries in that they document him talking and pontificating his point of view. But that’s a topic for another blog post. 🙂