It was our claim to that quiet nobility of purpose to produce grains and cattle that would help feed people far beyond our borders. That is, until the family farms started to fail and disappear en masse in the great 'Farm Crisis' of the 80's, when corporate agribusiness interests began (much like Wal-Mart did to small retailers) to gobble everything up and where they couldn't gobble their way in, they squeezed the small family farmer to the point of extinction.
A bit of personal history ... I grew up in a small farming community (pop. 1200), and quite frankly hated it for the first 18 years of my life and couldn't wait to graduate from High School and flee to college where I could finally be the person I knew I always was. I've prided myself (perhaps wrongly) over the years for leaving and never looking back, but deep inside me, the agricultural roots were always strong (thank you Dad), even if I didn't liberate them until I was in my 30's and began gardening in earnest, they were part of me and ultimately who I am. I willfully and deliberately "took the Iowan out of Iowa" but I never succeeded in "taking Iowa out of the Iowan," so when I grew disgusted with living in Florida and decided to make a clean break, it only seemed normal to come back to my roots here.
All that as prélude to a film I just watched on Hulu over the weekend ... I have to admit I've become a bit of a Hulu addict over the past few months, due to its incredibly rich selection of TV series and feature films, presented with limited interruptions. (I just recently devoured all 53 episodes of Arrested Development there, much to my delight.) But Hulu has a growing treasure trove of documentary films as well, and just recently added The Future of Food to their listings.
The subject of genetically modified organisms (often called GMOs) has interested me for years due to my innate fears that somehow we were opening Pandora's Agricultural Box in some regards by unleashing genetically modified crops ("Roundup Ready" seeds anyone?). There's just enough of the old hippie idealist left in me that I've always harbored a deep distrust of the huge chemical corporations like Monsanto and DuPont (who bought out the Iowa legacy mainstay Pioneer a few years back) who have now come to dominate American Agribusiness and literally enslave the struggling family farmers who still try to practice their time honored vocation.
That, in a nutshell, is what this film is all about: How, from time immemorial farmers used classical agricultural practices centered around preserving the genetic heritage of plants from generation to generation, with careful selection over the years made to improve varieties of crops naturally without artificial manipulation. Then something rather frightening occurred in (roughly) the 1970's when the technology developed that would allow scientists in the labs to splice genetic code (thanks, Watson and Crick) into plants (and animals) to make them resistant --and even some cases, toxic-- to insects and diseases.
The Future of Food is another classic case of "follow the money," where these courageous filmmakers have done precisely that and brought to light the ugly underbelly of contemporary agribusiness. From highlighting the saga of a North Dakota farmer sued for patent infringement by Monsanto because "Roundup Ready" soybeans strayed (quite naturally on the wind) into his fields contaminating his crops, to traditional Mexican farmers who are striving against all odds to preserve their corn's genetic heritage from contamination by American seeds, this film documents (quite clinically and calmly) all these disturbing developments caused by GMOs now entrenched in our National (and International) food chain.
This is an important film and really deserves to be seen by a much wider audience. The fact that Hulu makes it available online for free (you don't even need to register for an account to watch this film) is truly a service to the public, and you should take advantage of it, no matter what your take is on the whole issue of genetically modified food and whether we deserve greater transparency about how the foods we buy to eat are produced. It's quite sobering and often scary in its revelations about just how much we don't know about what we are consuming on a daily basis and how these choices may ultimately affect us. Is it worth spending 1 hour and 28 minutes of your time to watch? Definitely. That's about how much time I spent writing this post, so when you have the time to spare, click the link (image) and educate yourselves on this crucial issue. It may change the way you think about your everyday choices when you go to the grocery store....
This film was produced by Catherine Lynn Butler and written by Deborah Koons Garcia (yes, she was Jerry's third wife), two very engaged and aware filmmakers to whom we owe our gratitude for bringing this documentary to fruition.
Here's Hulu's description of the film:
"The Future Of Food offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade."I'll step down from the soapbox now and leave it up to you. And, if you've read this far, thanks again for indulging me in one of my occasional tirades. I just thought that this was too important not to write about, especially for those who are inclined to gardening in the first place....
Flowers and puppy pictures will resume soon. I promise!