Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The World According to Monsanto

We recently watched the documentary The World According to Monsanto (watch it here, read other reviews from TwilightEarth and Greenpeace). It was originally in French (it was dubbed) and for someone who doesn't read or speak French that is a little distracting because of some of the visual aspects (which I'll explain in a moment).

There is a lot of information in this film. It is packed full of primary source interviews--meaning interviews with people who were there, not just people who heard about it later. There is not a very smooth flow to the film though; it sortof jumps from one thing to the next. The overall message is clear: that Monsanto is and has been doing very shady things with our food production, from bovine growth hormones (rBGH) to roundup-ready seed to suing farmers out of everything they have. Most of the information was not new to me, as I had learned it from other sources (notably The Future of Food), but while FoF focuses on Monsanto's effects on the USA, this film spent more time on the international ramifications, including the way the company is making small independent farmers from Paraguay to India dependent on buying their seed and herbicides and is pushing monoculture (to the destruction of the traditional small family farms). It traced the infiltration of Monsanto's roundup-ready corn hybrid into Mexico's ancient corn strains, and showed photos of the truly disturbing results (if you know anything about how corn is supposed to look, these photos will give you chills).

The downside of this film is that it feels like an amateur movie. The numerous interviews and world traveling indicate a big budget, but the main transition method in the film is a woman (the filmmaker) sitting at her computer and googling various terms such as "monsanto rgbh falsify study" and so on. Yes, googling. In French. So that was a little distracting for me. The rest of the content was great, but the transitions (and there were many) were annoying.

In general, I do recommend the movie because of the content (which does go above and beyond other food documentaries I've seen). Just be warned that it doesn't have as polished a feel as some other documentaries.

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