The Future of Food
Posted to www.marxmail.org on August 23, 2005
Scheduled for theatrical release at NYC's Film Forum on
September 14, "The Future of Food" documents the rise of genetic
modification in the food industry. While it is a much more sober and a much
more informative work than "Roger and Me," both films are focused on
corporate villains: General Motors in one case and Monsanto in the other.
Rather than relying on a jocular narrator like
Besides interviewing scientists and policy experts, it also
allows farmers themselves to speak out against Monsanto. When
The film gives one example after another of how elected
politicians serve on the board of Monsanto and related companies. It also
documents the incestuous relationship between their high-level employees and
federal agencies meant to regulate them. It is not unusual for some top manager
of Monsanto to take a job with the FDA, which is analogous to an Exxon executive
going to work for the EPA. Politicians, both Democrat and Republican, have been
co-opted as shills for biotechnology. In 1997, Mickey Kantor,
The notion that living organisms can be patented defies logic and common sense. As one expert witness points out, it is one thing to patent a tennis racket and another to patent a gene. The ultimate outcome might be control over life itself. If a gene can be patented, then every place it appears--including the human body--would come under the jurisdiction of the law, just as the errant seeds that found their way into Schmeiser's field.
The film provides a detailed history of how this state of affairs came to be. The first bid to patent a living organism occurred in 1978 when a scientist developed a genetically modified microbe that could absorb oil, a means of controlling spills. This opened the door for Monsanto and other corporations to follow suit. As the film points out, this was never voted on. In effect, genetically modified crops began to dominate the American rural economy and the retail marketplace no matter what the public desired. In 1980, there were zero acres of cultivated GM seeds. Today there are 100 million.
And when the public began to react against this coup,
agribusiness figured out ways to maintain its grip on the system. In
The ultimate ambition of companies like Monsanto is to force "Terminator technology" on the world's farmers. This involves genetic modification to a seed so that subsequent generations will be sterile. This goes against the grain (pun intended) of traditional farming in which seeds are recycled based on their intrinsic value. Percy Schmeiser recoiled at the idea that he would be prevented from using such seeds in the future, since he and his family had considered this the business of the farmer himself and not some greedy corporation.
One of the more poignant sections of the film details the
onslaught of American agribusiness on traditional corn-growing practices in
Free market dogma would posit the eventual victory of the GM
juggernaut on the basis of cost-effectiveness. Why fret over the ostensibly
outmoded practices of Mexican farmers, no matter their environmental
GM food, which is the logical end result of the Green Revolution, has been touted as a solution to world hunger. If it is not economically feasible, then perhaps the only excuse for it is that it can feed the needy. Jeffrey Sachs, who strikes poses as the best friend that hungry Africans ever had, has said:
"Scientific advances again offer great hope.
Biotechnology could mobilise genetic engineering to
breed hardier plants that are more resistant to drought and less sensitive to
pests. Such genetic engineering is stymied at every point, however. It is met
with doubts in the rich countries (where people do not have to worry about
their next meal); it requires a new scientific and policy framework in the poor
countries; and it must somehow generate market incentives for the big
life-sciences firms to turn their research towards tropical foodstuffs, in
co-operation with tropical research centres. Calestous Juma, one of the
world's authorities on biotechnology in
Contrary to Jeffrey Sachs, the real answer to world hunger is production for human need rather than profit. Corporations such as Monsanto exist for one reason alone and that is to generate profits. The attraction of GM is not that it is beneficial, but that it lends itself to corporate control just like any commodity. Once the world's food is produced on the basis of patent, it will become possible to exert monopoly control. To ensure that this goal is met, it is necessary to destroy all resistance, from anti-WTO protestors to solid citizens like Percy Schmeiser, whose only sin was trying to carry on with family traditions.
Future of Food website: http://www.thefutureoffood.com/