New films confront GM crops (18/4/2007)

1.Film confronts genetically altered crops
2.Dalit women shoot to fame


1.Film confronts genetically altered crops

Genetically Modified Organisms have been a subject of much contention since initial experiments with them in the early '70s. The field of GMOs involves recombining DNA from different organisms, typically containing the genetic information to specific desired traits, to create a new organism with those traits. The results of such experimentation has led to plants that show resistance to frost and pests, iridescence, and even a planned "termination" date. Even animals have been experimented on, resulting in glowing pigs and fish.

Not all GMOs have made it past the experimentation stage, and some contest that not all GMOs have offered a great benefit for their cost of production.

Controversy now surrounds the idea of using GMOs in food products, particularly those containing the Bt bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis a bacteria found in soil that can be used for biological pest control. Bt naturally produces a crystal protein that is toxic to certain insects, and through DNA recombinant technologies, it has been reproduced in the cells of field crops, including corn, potatoes and cotton.

A film featured in the Winter and Spring Farmer's Market and Film Series will tackle the issue of GMOs in plants and animals. Produced by Produced by Bertram Verhaag and Gabrielle Kroeber, "Unnatural Selection" will be the first film at the Wednesday, April 18 event.

Paul Keiser, who co-produces the Winter and Spring Farmer's Market and Film Series with his wife Nancy Jones Keiser, said the 60-minute film is an "eye-opener that that everybody on the planet should see."

"Unnatural Selection" focuses on the GMO food industry, including interviews with Terje Traavik, of the Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology; Andrew Kimbrell, of the Center for Food Safety, in Washington D.C.; several farmers in Canada; and Vandana Shiva, an activist from Navdanya, New Delhi, India, among others. Keiser said many people should relate to the film, as a recent drop in the bee population could have a connection to GMO crops.

Keiser said the use of the anti-insect Bt bacteria in Michigan corn crops could be contributing to honeybee deaths. He said GMO crops are causing more harm than benefit to humans, and that the alarm bells are not ringing loudly enough.

"The purpose of genetically modifying different kinds of agricultural plants is for really major shareholders for large corporations to take ownership of all these crops," Keiser said. "Unfortunately, I view it as being what AIDS is to humanity a human population GMOs are to plants."

Traavik, from "Unnatural Selection," has done experiments with DNA recombinant technology in fish, Keiser said. The results have shown that such technology can cause irreversible damage in some instances.

"(Traavik) had these guppy-like fish. He had a group that was not transgenic and a group that was transgenic," Keiser said. "This is in a house situation, like a laboratory, where they treat all the animals very good in terms of feeding them well and giving them a good habitat. But the transgenic fish the guppy-like fish, which were very small and had a very short generation time at the end of 40 generations died off and the other ones didn't."

The film goes beyond the direct results of GMO crops to detail what some see as collateral damage in the industry. Patented GMO seeds have blown off trucks as they pass other farms, resulting in unintentional exposure and contamination between the crops, Keiser said.

"The organic growers, and even non-organic growers, become punished for this," he said. "There are no government remedies, there's no help coming. There is no protection for the non-GMO canola fields, soy fields, or cornfields. There's no legal protection. The courts often have favored Monsanto because they're big money and then it's on the farmer to clean all of that up out of their fields. In these cases, certified organic farms, their certification is suspended and they're punished. We think that's thoroughly unfair."

Following "Unnatural Selection," another film, "Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A Three Year Fraud," will be shown. This 27-minute film focuses on farmers in India who become activists when GMO plants lead to the reduction of their cotton harvest and the destruction of the soil. "GMO Update," an 11-minute film on Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser and his battle with agricultural corporation Monsanto over the re-contamination of his canola plants from seed blown off trucks will also be shown.

The event will finish with an "Action Steps and Resources" presentation. Keiser said this part of the series will teach visitors where to look for information and things they can do themselves if they want to take action and be involved, noting examples of current efforts.

"There are two chefs, at least one of them out in the San Francisco Area, and they have a boycott against GMOs going on," Keiser said. "These chefs do not allow genetically modified foods to come into their restaurants. They view themselves as the stewards of their customers and of their clients' health. They're doing a lot of things there."

For more information on these films or the Winter and Spring Farmers Market, contact the Keisers at (616) 677-6176, the Community Media Center at (616) 459-4788 or, or the Wealthy Theater at (616) 459-4788 or


2.Dalit women shoot to fame
Ashok Das
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad, April 17, 2007

A group of unlettered Dalit women from a village in Telangana have created history. The women, who took to film making under the tutelage of the NGO Deccan Development Society six years back, have won the national award for best educational video film in a nation-wide contest conducted by the University Grants Commission and Consortium of Educational communication (UGC-CEC).

The 10 women from Pastapur village came out tops with two awards in a competition with 246 entries, including some by well-known short film makers and top notch academicians. The film by the group received a citation for the best programme on Environment and Development.

The group, organized under Community Media Trust, has produced 75 films covering a issues including women and agriculture, local healthcare systems, agricultural biodiversity cultural traditions of the region. The quality of their work has won accolades in India and abroad too. The UK-based National Resources Institute commissioned the group to make a 20-minute film on 'Water. Life and Livelihood', which was completed recently.

A disaster in search of success: Bt cotton in global south - the movie made by the group for a German NGO - has become the talking point in environment circles. Two team members recently travelled to South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Mali and parts of India to document farmers’ reaction to Bt cotton.


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