The following is part a review by Allan Baddock of the film The Future of Food, and part an explanation of the background to the film by its maker, Deborah Koons Garcia. It has just been published in Organic NZ, the Journal of the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand (est 1941), and it seems like a good note on which to start 2005.
EXCERPTS: Baddock - "A new documentary on the politics driving the food industry is being tipped as having an impact comparable to last years Fahrenheit 911. It has already sparked a wave of community action across the U.S."
Garcia - "The response to the film has been overwhelming and positive. It has appeared in top festivals like the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the Natural History Museum in New York, has been taken up by food lovers like Alice Waters, has been used by activists in thousands of screenings in community centers, church basements and living rooms. It's playing in theaters and organic gatherings, like EcoFarm and The Midwest Organic Farmers conference. It's been screened by Jehovah's Witnesses and Healthcare professionals. It's being used in benefits for GE Free Hawai'i, The Organic Seed Alliance, Slow Food and many others. It's been taken off to Bulgaria, Indonesia, Brazil - and New Zealand! If someone has $20 and 5$ for shipping, they can buy and show the film. Theatrical screenings are even better - community!"
The Future of Food
Must See doco arrives in NZ
A new documentary on the politics driving the food industry is being tipped as having an impact comparable to last year's Fahrenheit 911. It has already sparked a wave of community action across the U.S.
Organic and consumer groups are organising neighbourhood house parties to screen the film and get around the reluctance of American television networks and mainstream cinemas to show it. A similar grass roots response driven by community groups is already emerging in New Zealand
"The Future of Food," completed in July, highlights the role of U.S. corporations and government in driving international developments in agriculture, and the need for consumers to insist on having the final say in determining what we eat. The film breaks down the science of genetic engineering into explanations anyone can follow, outlines the behind-the-scenes moves which opened the way for corporations to claim patents on the world's seed stocks, and hears directly from US and Canadian farmers who have been forced to destroy family stocks of heritage seed built up over generations and replace it with patented seed. The images of Percy Schmeisser dumping 10 tonnes of localised heritage seed will break any farmer's heart.
But anyone who has any interest in the food on our tables should see this film. Buy it. Borrow it. Get together with your neighbours and show it. The science is sound. The revelations disturbing. The conclusions remain for you to draw for yourself. Beware of drawing any conclusions until you have seen it.
Director/Producer/Writer Deborah Koons Garcia has spent three years making "The Future of Food". Although she has been making films since the 1960s and runs her own production company, many New Zealanders will recognise the Garcia name for her legendary guitarist husband Jerry, who died in 1995.
Organic NZ asked Deborah what shaped her take on the food industry.
"In 1965, when I was 15 and in High School, I won a first prize for my science experiment "Polyploidy in Plants". I had treated some seeds with the chemical colchicine and irradiated others. These processes polyploided or doubled the chromosomes in each cell - an early form of genetic engineering. I planted the treated seeds along with an untreated control group. What was very clear was that the normal plants were normal while the polyploids were larger, thicker, quite deformed looking.
The difference was striking. The scientists who judged the fair were fascinated. The radish plants were the most obvious. I remember looking at the two sets of plants and thinking "These I would eat, those I would not eat". I remember thinking "Things are going to get very strange one day in the world of genetics and I want to keep my eye on it".
Well, there is something now to keep our eyes on - a different and even creepier kind of genetic engineering using viruses and bacteria to bring patented DNA from one species to another: bacteria to plant, fish to tomato, human to rice, human to pig.
It's all being done now, and the people doing it intend that we eat this. In fact, a lot of it we may be already eating. They intend no choice, no way to say "this I will eat, that I will not".
The changes that are going on now in agriculture are profound and we stand at a crossroads. Because of the nature of this technology and because of patent law now, the genetically engineered organisms growing in fields and test plots today can not only pollute our fields and food supply but cross with any kind of plant and turn it into a genetically engineered one, unpredictable, uncontrolled and owned by Monsanto.
Despite the benefits touted by industry, the four main commercial crops which are engineered today - corn, soy, cotton and canola - are engineered either to resist the spraying of the herbicide Roundup or to manufacture a naturally occurring bacterial insecticide, Bt, in every cell. They are engineered to resist a pesticide or to be an insecticide. They create more spraying, more resistance, more risk.
These new transgenic foods have never been tested for health. In the US they are not labeled, but they are patented. If the seeds blow onto your property and cross with your plants, your plants become the property of, say, Monsanto Corporation.
I deal with these and many other issues in "The Future of Food". I made the film with the express purpose of informing people of what is going on here - from the cellular to the global level - so they would have a deep understanding of all the aspects of genetic engineering in agriculture and would feel inspired to take action: like eating organically, supporting local farmers, and creating communities based on protecting our agricultural heritage, our food.
The response to the film has been overwhelming and positive. It has appeared in top festivals like the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the Natural History Museum in New York, has been taken up by food lovers like Alice Waters, has been used by activists in thousands of screenings in community centers, church basements and living rooms. It's playing in theaters and organic gatherings, like EcoFarm and The Midwest Organic Farmers conference. It's been screened by Jehovah's Witnesses and Healthcare professionals. It's being used in benefits for GE Free Hawai'i, The Organic Seed Alliance, Slow Food and many others. It's been taken off to Bulgaria, Indonesia, Brazil - and New Zealand! If someone has $20 and 5$ for shipping, they can buy and show the film. Theatrical screenings are even better - community!
I want a world in which everybody can say "this I will eat, that I won't". Actually, I want a world in which organic agriculture is everywhere and agribusiness with its toxic legacy is something like slavery, a destructive condition we've evolved beyond. I want a world where everyone has enough safe, healthy food to eat.
Everything that's wrong with trangenics, genetically engineered plants, genetically modified organisms - whatever we call them - is summed up in the idea of creating bananas engineered to contain a vaccine so children in third world countries can get their vaccines by eating a banana. I cannot understand this. What if the child happens to eat several of these vaccine-bananas one day? This would be after already having been banana-vaccined as a baby.
Or there's that spermicidal corn growing in test plots in Southern California. What happens when pollen from that corn floats right over to the popcorn corn ? May solve the population explosion. Speaking of reproductive issues, there are the pigs that have had serious reproductive failure after eating GMO soy. Humans are eating that same soy.
Who's in charge here? An out of control machine? What future are these people planning for us? What has happened to their minds? Lots of question marks, lots of work to do.
It makes sense for people in New Zealand not only to eat organically but to work to protect your beautiful islands. The industry is turning the islands of Hawai'i into a sacrificial zone. They have thousands of test plots growing plants which create what? pharmaceuticals, plastics, chemicals? The citizens are battling in the courts to find out what is even growing there - people who farm and eat right nearby. This has to stop!
New Zealand, you are at a crossroads. Inform yourself. Protect yourself. You have paradise there and it's important to save paradise, for all of us. It's what we in California are working for. May we all have great success in this noble effort, everyone all over the world, everyone who thinks, everyone who eats, everyone who cares.
Deborah Koons Garcia
Deborah Koons Garcia began making films more than 30 years ago, at the University of North Carolina, before heading to the San Francisco Bay Area for a Master's in fine arts from the San Francisco Art Institute.
Other film projects include "All About Babies," a series on early childhood development, a feature called "Poco Loco," and "Grateful Dawg," a look at the musical collaboration of Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.
©2004 Deborah Koons Garcia & Allan Baddock
Lily Films, Inc.
P.O. Box 895
Mill Valley, CA 94942
T 415 383 0553
F 415 383 6852
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