Friday, February 8, 2008

Movie Review - Bad Seed: The Truth About Our Food

There is a sense of urgency among policy analysts, scientists, farmers, agriculturalists, and activists all around the world, not just the United States of America. This urgency was highly manifested in the faces, dialogue, and actions among those interviewed in the latest movie I saw, "Bad Seed: The Truth About Our Food", directed by 20-year-old Adam Curry. This urgency stresses the deleterious effects of genetically-modified crops in human health, agricultural business, global diversity and hunger, and challenges to the organic movement.

Transparency to the American public is hard to come by. Resistance to large corporations has been criminalized, as detailed by Anuradha Mittal, Director of the Oakland Institute. The United States Food and Drug Administration does not require biotechnology companies to label their genetically-modified (GM) foods; rather, is it under "voluntary consultation".

There was a large amount of scientific discussion in the film about the transfer of genes from one organism to another. Studies in rats being fed GM foods end up having misshapen, unstable, and constantly-changing cells in their bodies. This proposes a plethora of risks to human health. According to the National Research Council, half of all US births result in loss of birth or chronic illness. Currently, we don't understand the consequences of the transfer of one gene of an organism to another. Studies in rats have shown that these genes called "promoters" cause excessive cell growth, turns into dormant viruses and transfers these viruses into the organisms' tissues. Consequences in this transfer may include more homogeneous yields and loss of natural biodiversity.

I personally enjoyed hearing the stories from the farmers interviewed in the film. Doug Mosel, a fourth generation farmer, noted that today's insurmountable complexity in the food system has been a result from decades of biotechnology-endoctrination. Starting in the 1950's, farmers, alongside land-grant universities, bought into the idea of applying herbicides and pesticides to their crops to increase yields.

Howard Vlieger, an Iowan farmer, presented the modern idea of how pharmaceutical companies are integrated into today's food systems. These companies supply farmers with genetically-engineered seeds, the crops are given as food feed to people or to people directly, people see a physician due to illness (unconscious of their later prodigious bills), and the physician completing the circle by routing medicine back from the pharmaceutical.

The film debunked the myths of needing more food to supply the global hunger through GM food. According to Dr. Peter Rosset, a University of California professor, described our need to control domestic food production, assist small global farmers economically, and grow less GM crops due to their comparably lower yield to non-GM crops.

I found myself at times disgruntled at the spine-tingling images and frightening music selection. Not really what you want to see at nine in the morning. While the video-photography proved excellent, I was a bit surprised at the lack of what-to-do-next-in-this-movement footage in the documentary. Touching on consumer choice and current activism, I found myself prosing the questions - "What do we really do next?" How can large corporations like Monsanto, alter their company ideologies to suffice to sustainable agriculture? Will it take economic diversion to steer these biotech companies to realize what they're doing? Will other strategies like litigation, free markets, and command-and-control techniques save us?

Throughout the film, I couldn't help to inquire about the need for wholesalers today to label food as "organic". There used to just be food. No pesticides. No herbicides. No biotech companies. All natural and organic farming methods. Is this a green-washing effect, I see? Whatever happened to just growing food as naturally and ecologically-sound as possible? Do we need this socially-conscious labelling to scream the need to wind ourselves backwards from an abyss of agricultural blasphemy?

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