More film reviews
2.Frightening food for thought
3.Art of the artificial
4.Entering a nightmare
Hour, May 22 2008 [shortened]
New doc exposes disturbing facts about Monsanto's impact on the world's fragile food supply
To big multinationals like Monsanto, we humans are mere guinea pigs. Don't believe me? Go see The World According to Monsanto. When the doc, by renowned investigative journalist Marie-Monique Robin, streamed on the ARTE.tv website in France, the traffic and conversation it generated busted their server. That's because the film, like the book version (which sold over 40,000 copies to date in France), finally presents a cogent and horrifying enough picture of the world's leading seed manufacturer to warrant concern and fury (and I'll go out on a limb here and predict this film won't just enrage the protest-happy French).
The book, like the film of the same title, provides unpublished documents and first-hand accounts by victims, scientists and politicians, and clearly lays out how the industrial giant has lied, colluded with the American government and used extreme pressure tactics on scientists in order to gain market supremacy. (Today, the US company's genetically modified organisms (GMOs) represent 90 per cent world GMO crops, have been planted in over 46 countries and threaten to destroy the agricultural biodiversity that has served mankind for thousands of years.)
Monsanto has long argued that biotechnology is the solution to hunger and environmental contamination, and for many in the scientific community and in politics during Bush senior's tenure, that may have been the hope. Yet the Monsanto company profile has never been trustworthy. They've manufactured some of the most toxic products ever marketed, including PCB and Agent Orange. They've also managed to bury all the evidence that proves the toxicity of their products, some of which are unauthorized in Canada and Europe. To make matters worse, the company has become the leading manufacturer of GMO seeds and aims to take possession of (and patent!) the world's crop seeds (yes, all those fundamental to the world's food supply). They've also managed to bypass (or buy out) all their friends in government (or hire them!) as well as at the FDA (Food and Drug Administration in the U.S.), who've yet to subject these supposed miracle crops to rigorous independent testing or safeguards.
The film's simple investigative style and its rich array of expert talking heads lend it, and its findings, gravitas. The film is far from fancy, but the basic question is simple: Can we really afford to trust a company like Monsanto to safeguard our world food supply? There can be few surprises left in the answer.
[Green Screens, a weeklong environmental event organized by the NFB featuring screenings, discussions and workshops from May 26 to 31. For more information and to screen other NFB films about the environment online, go to www.nfb.ca/footprints.]
2.Frightening food for thought
The Gazette, May 23 2008
Content conquers craft in Marie-Monique Robin's devastating exposé Le Monde selon Monsanto (The World According to Monsanto).
The French journalist's documentary format is pedestrian - lots of phone calls, talking heads, cheesy mock-dramatic background music. But her seriously researched critique of the international chemical "life sciences" giant Monsanto will freeze the blood in your veins.
You may know Monsanto for its role in those old chestnuts PCB, dioxin and Agent Orange, poisons so pervasive and so stubborn they have spread their toxic stain from pole to pole.
The 100-year-old company is a major player in the GMO revolution? Under the plausible guise of eradicating world hunger with genetically modified seeds resistant to Round-Up, a best-selling herbicide it also developed, Monsanto has launched an insidious campaign to achieve worldwide market supremacy, regardless of the social cost to small farmers and rural economies.
It's all laid out in previously classified documents, and confirmed by scientists, politicians and victims. What the evidence suggests is that Monsanto has long waged a dirty war of pressure campaigns, corruption, collusion with government and prevarication, also known as big fat lies.
We know where Robin stands on Monsanto. We also know she tried early and often to get the company to talk for her documentary. It refused, on the grounds it would not come off looking good. It doesn't.
As far back as 1937, a study showed the "systemic toxic effects" of PCBs. Its production continued for decades, with shattering results still felt today.
Repositioning itself as an agricultural company, Monsanto developed Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production in dairy cows. Despite flawed science and obvious health risks, the company rushed the product to market, using such subtle measures as attempting to bribe Canadian government officials.
It failed, and the drug never crossed the border. But it was accepted in the States, where deregulations initiated during the Reagan years have put the company into bed with successive governments committed to leading the biotech revolution. Yes, that's Bush senior checking out the mutant Monsanto seeds when he was Ronald Reagan's VP.
As someone says, "biotech is so important, we can't let problems get in the way." Which explains the current GMO saturation of global markets and the stealth penetration of those seeds through "transgenics" into native seed stock.
It's not scary. It's terrifying. Like a Kurt Vonnegut Ice Nine effect, Monsanto's GMO market penetration looks to turn the world to mono-culture and potential environmental catastrophe. Rather than feed the planet, says Robin in this essential wake-up call, Monsanto is well on the road to ruining it.
The World According to Monsanto
Playing: In French and English with English subtitles at AMC cinema and with French subtitles at Ex-Centris.
Parents' guide: Some shocking images.
3.Art of the artificial
By Stephanie Buhmann
The Villager, May 21 -27
Lynn Hershman Leeson explores media, fantasy and Manet
Over the past 40 years, Lynn Hershman Leeson has explored empowerment and freedom of speech in a wide range of media, including photography, film, sculpture, performance, and installation...
As an extension of her activisism against censorship, she recently filmed Strange Culture, a docudrama starring Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton focusing on the arrest and criminal charges against internationally acclaimed bio-artist Steve Kurtz. In May 2004 when Kurtz’s wife died of heart failure while sleeping, police deemed Kurtz’s art, which then examined the risks of genetically modified foods, as suspicious and notified the FBI. Within hours he was detained as a suspected bio-terrorist. For four years, Kurtz was awaiting trial for possession of biological materials that were freely available online. On April 21, 2008, Kurtz was finally cleared of charges for mail and wire fraud. In a most urgent and artistic manner, Hersman Leeson's Strange Culture examines the danger of the government widening its scope and definition of illegal activities.
4.Entering a nightmare
Dunnville Chronicle, May 22 2008
Last Friday's DREAM presentation of the movie "The Future of Food," proved to be far more frightening than any slasher movie.(see related story on page A7).
The movie demonstrated an unimagined greed currently being demonstrated by multinational corporations which have put their interests ahead of the public, the health of our children and even the starving third world nations.
The movie described how the giant chemical corporations have systematically taken over the seed business in North America with the goal of controlling all crops, and eventually all plant and animal life around the world.
This nightmare began when the United States began allowing patenting of new genetically engineered plant life. This opened the doors so these corporations began to patent every seed known to man, even if it has existed for thousands of years.
They have since begun exercising their power by suing - and defeating - farmers who have been found to have some of their "copyrighted" plants growing in their fields even if the seeds were proven to have drifted onto the property without the knowledge of the farmer.
Many farmers have been crushed in the courts by these multinational corporations.
The goal is to get all farmers to purchase from them. There are only about six companies who now control the seed market.
But the uncontrolled greed does not stop here.
The companies creating genetically altered food gained support by claiming they will be able to feed the starving people of the planet. They have, in fact, begun programs which achieve the opposite.
By "owning" all the known food seeds they have taken most of them off the market, producing only one or two of each kind, thereby gaining control over crops such as corn, canola, and wheat.
By removing the diversity of crops, nature's way of preserving plant life on the planet, they have opened us up to devastating famine if ever blight should attack any of these crops. Without diversity, all the crops planted would be susceptible to the disease.
Furthermore, the genetically engineered plants have proven to be inferior to natural ones.
United States subsidies to their farmers, who are losing money, means they can dump their food and seed on third world countries cheaper than their farmers can grow their own. This means that genetically engineered seeds and crops will appear there as well. And third world debt to the U.S. will increase.
And this explains their current drive to have the U.S. patent laws extended around the world.
But the damning evidence proving they are out to trample the poor and control domestic farmers is their development of a so-called "suicide" gene which limits plants to only one year of growth. They do not produce seed at the end of their lifecycle meaning every farmer would have to purchase company-produced seeds ever year.
And this is where it really gets frightening. How will this genetically engineered gene be controlled? What if it spreads to all plant life? This is a very real possibility. Imagine the world-wide destruction of plant life if none could produce seed. Global famine would surely ensue.
In the U.S. many people in positions of power with the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency also sit on the boards of these greedy corporations. American consumers cannot expect justice.
Sadly, one of the most disturbing facts revealed by the film was that the Canadian government and court system is just as corrupt as their American counterparts. While the European union is fighting against genetic enhancements and have successfully fought to have such food clearly labelled, Canada and the U.S. have left the public unprotected by siding with the corporations.
One of the allegations made in the film is the Canada Pension Plan is one of the heaviest investors in genetic engineering firms. If this is so, we can do something about it.
We can go to our MP's and demand a change in this investment policy. And locally we can shop for all-natural, or strictly organic food.
Since we are no longer being protected by the democratic process it is up to each and every one of us to take a lesson from the DREAM program and raise our own awareness.
We will only regain control of the public sector, and our lives , by staying informed and demanding responsible leadership from our goverments.