Once upon a time, in 2008 a French documentary filmmaker by the name of Marie-Monique Robin made a film about a biotechnology company. Robin is an award-winning filmmaker of exposé documentaries on diverse subjects like organ theft, the French secret service practices that include death squads and systematic torture of Algerian dissidents, Cuba, false accusations of pedophilia on teachers and most recently a film on US practices of torture. Needless to say, given her topics, her films have not been the most popular ones on the top 10 lists. However, her 2008 outing, which was about an American multinational corporation which is one of the largest in the world, attracted a Rachel Carson Prize (Norway), the Umwelt-Medienpreis (Germany) and and best film at the Ekofilm Film Festival in 2009. An unrelenting documentary that systematically rips the curtain off the hangers, allowing you to see in full light the man(ufacterer) behind the curtain, the man pulling the levers of regulatory, legislative and scientific spheres, you will be surprised (You are, right? Sure you are!) to hear that this film, shown at a number of prestigious film festivals and venues in Europe and in Latin America, barely made a blip here in the US. In spite of the fact that a good fraction of it is in English (the rest is subtitled, don't worry) and that it actually had to be dubbed or titled back into French, Spanish, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Italian, Czech, Portuguese, Greek and quite a few other languages (and it was!) in order to be released elsewhere. You also can't find this film to rent on Netflix and such. Nope. Not there. So, since I was advised that I really had to see this film, I set out looking to buy a copy.
What do you see when you go to purchase this film on Amazon? If you're an Amazon Prime customer, looking for your free shipping and your nice little Amazon guarantee, you see the image above, leaving you wondering... hey, is it really the right film? If you want to see the image of the DVD, you have to go with a third party vendor, which is what I ended up doing, paying for postage, after confirming that it really was the film I wanted, but hey, look at that- the DVD is actually cheaper? Hmmm. Of course, there's the nice picture of the French language version of the film. But that's not a DVD for our Region. Well, no matter, I bought the less expensive, third-party DVD, (it arrived just fine) and I watched it. And I showed it to my skeptical husband and my bright children and a slew of other people that I know. I found out after discussing things with a reader of the blog that the film was now up on Google video (yay for Google! Yay for BBC!) and hence I can post a link for readers to stream the video.
I really think that this is one of the most damning documentaries about a company I've ever seen. It cuts to the heart of the harm done to the biotechnology, and specifically the GMO industry, by suspect or downright corrupt practices. There are things that I think are a little slanted, and one thing that I think has been somewhat disputed since 2007-8 when Robin was filming it. But overall, this film is an indictment of the capitalist agenda when married to, or more accurately dominating, science. There are aspects of this film that literally made me tearful, given the noble ideals that scientists are supposed to aspire to in their research and with respect to the idea of peer review and the underlying purpose of, and public trust in, regulation.
So, I'm not naming names here. Promised my husband I wouldn't. But I am telling readers that they really ought check out this link and watch a movie that summarizes all the worst that you have ever heard or feared about GMOs. In spite of the fact that I'm still pro-GMO when appropriately studied, peer-reviewed and marketed responsibly, I think there are things in this film that every responsible citizen of every country should see and be aware of. The practices, as far as weakening regulatory agencies, or even, as many would suggest, infiltrating regulatory agencies and legislative lobbying that further weakens regulation itself, are important to consider.
The amazing science of GMOs, and probably the entire biotech industry, are harmed by practices that ultimately backfire and then make the general public distrust science. It is a vicious cycle. As people distrust science more funding basic science is threatened. As a result, scientists may become more reliant on private funding and specifically corporate funding, in lieu of steadily diminishing federal (public) funding. And how much more likely are you to skew your results, or just... not ask the hard questions, if you will lose your corporate funding stream?
This video will show you everything that can go wrong with GMOs and this way of doing business.
It shows you ways in which the ability to do good, novel science can be harmed by the bad practices of a few, powerful companies.
Please watch it?
I'll be back later in the week with more information on the good that GMOs can do, an assessment of the water crisis (have you been reading the NY Times on the subject this past week?), and more about the coming realities of growing food on a warming, drought-ridden planet.
GMOs. They can help this planet.
If we allow people to have the funding and research time to get it right.