Friday, August 19, 2005

Deborah Koons Garica's Food Film


From Southern Oregon Mail Tribune:

Garcia puts food convictions on film

If you go"The Future of Food" opens a run at the Varsity Theatre in Ashland with filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia present for the 6 and 8:30 p.m. Friday showings. General admission is $7.25. Call 482-3321 or visit www.ashlandfilm.org.

By BILL VARBLEMail Tribune

Deborah Koons Garcia has a challenge for corporations promoting genetically modified food.
"If it’s so great, they should label it," she says. "So people could go, ‘Genetically engineered corn, I want that.’ "
Corporations such as Monsanto, the world leader in genetically engineered foods, have vigorously opposed efforts to require the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms.


Garcia’s film "The Future of Food" documents what she says is a revolution that has been transforming the nature of the food we eat for several years as genetically engineered foods have filled grocery store shelves with little debate.
The picture won the audience choice award at the Ashland Independent Film Festival in April with the highest score in the competition’s history. It’s coming back for a return engagement beginning Friday at the Varsity Theatre in Ashland, and Garcia will be on hand to discuss the film with audience members after 6:30 and 8 p.m. showings.
After months as a hot property on the festival circuit, the film is about to be released in New York City, New Zealand and elsewhere.


Shot on location in the United States, Canada and Mexico, "The Future of Food" examines the web of market and political forces that is changing what we eat as multinational corporations gain increased power over the world’s food system.

Among other things, the film gives a voice to farmers who have been impacted by this new technology, such as Percy Schmeiser of Saskatchewan, Canada, who was among the grain farmers sued by Monsanto after the company’s Roundup- ready patented canola seed drifted into their fields.

"The Future of Food" is an advocacy picture somewhat in the mold of "Fahrenheit 911" or "Super Size Me." Garcia asked Monsanto to take part, but the company declined to provide a spokesperson or answer questions, although it sent a CD of biotech information that Garcia used in the film.

"The industry side is already out there," she says.

It’s on the Web at Monsanto.com.

Garcia, the widow of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, just got back from Vermont and Maine, where "The Future of Food" was shown in theaters, community centers, church basements, a barn, whatever.
"Thirteen screenings in 13 days," she says. "Jerry would’ve approved."


The Dead were famous for their endless touring.

Garcia says she became interested in the project when a friend told her about Roundup-resistant crops.
"I didn’t know anything about it," she says. "I think everybody is concerned. Everybody eats."
A prize-winning science experiment Garcia did as a schoolgirl in 1965 may have foreshadowed her interest in genetically modified organisms. She exposed plants to radiation, sickening them.
Voters in both Mendocino and Marin counties in California recently passed measures banning GMO farming, and activists credit Garcia’s film with galvanizing voters.


What’s to worry about?

"These foods are very different," Garcia says. "They’re made using DNA from viruses and bacteria. They have things in them never eaten before.

"We are the experiment."

One of the main complaints GMO critics make is that unlike new drugs, GMO foods are not subject to rigorous testing before they are marketed.

"It’s because government is filled with people who worked for these corporations," Garcia says.

She points to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who as a Missouri senator received generous contributions from Monsanto political action committees before President Bush’s appointment, and to former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, who was on the board of directors of Calgene Pharmaceuticals, which is now owned by Monsanto. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is a past chairman of G.D. Searle Co., which is now owned by Monsanto.
Garcia says she finds a growing sense of outrage around the country.


"People say the government seems to be taking better care of corporations than people," she says. "They always ask about Monsanto suing farmers who find their DNA in their fields. They always ask why the farmers can’t sue Monsanto. They say it doesn’t make sense."

Schmeiser, the Canadian farmer sued by Monsanto, didn’t plant Monsanto’s GMO canola and didn’t want it. He fought the company and at first was ordered to pay Monsanto to plant his next crop — even using his own seed. But the Supreme Court of Canada in May 2004 determined Schmeiser did not have to pay.

Garcia says with a laugh that her next documentary may be about soil.

"Gardeners get excited when I tell them, but everybody else goes — soil?"

She’s also thinking about making an independent feature film. She has a script for a romantic thriller.

"In a year or so I’ll feel I’ve done my good karma work," she says.

In the meantime she’s urging people to read labels, talk with grocery managers, consider organic and locally produced foods.

"Consumers have power," she says. "In the next five or 10 years we’ll shape the future."

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail

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