Tuesday, September 25, 2012

'The World According to Monsanto'

'The World According to Monsanto': Fighting a Global Agribusiness Through
the Power of Film
 A giant, multinational agribusiness is using its market share and patent
system to spread genetically modified crops throughout the world
by Marie-Monique Robin
Common Dreams: Sep 23, 2012
I have been working as a journalist for the past 25 years or so, focusing
mainly on human rights and the environment.

What struck me was the number of people I encountered who kept uttering a
single name: Monsanto, the giant U.S.-based multinational biotechnology

[image: image-right]I grew up on a farm in France, hence my keen interest
in agricultural issues.

I decided to find out more about Monsanto's global reach.

Monsanto, founded in 1901, started out as a chemical company. It is perhaps
best known for producing Agent Orange, the defoliant used by U.S. forces
during the Vietnam War.

It now has a commanding share of the global genetically modified seed
market. One of its representative products is the herbicide Roundup. The
documentary shows how Monsanto makes money by selling Roundup together with
transgenic seeds that are resistant to the herbicide.

Monsanto originally marketed Roundup as "environmentally friendly" and
"biodegradable," but it had to change its labeling after the company was
found guilty of "false advertising," first by a U.S. court in 1996 and then
by a French court in 2007.

The company has patented these genetically modified seeds, so when a farmer
buys them, he or she must keep paying patent fees for new seeds, even if
these seeds are harvested from the farmer's own crops.

When Monsanto first started selling transgenic soy beans in Argentina, it
didn't seek patent fees. Several years later, though, after the
multinational had captured a large share of the market, it came back and
began pursuing farmers for royalties.

Once Roundup has been used, it is very difficult to go back to sowing
traditional soy beans. Farmers end up having to pay royalties every year
just so they can continue to cultivate Roundup-resistant transgenic crops.
What's more, if Roundup-resistant weeds start appearing, farmers then have
to buy one of Monsanto's other pesticide products.


It would seem that there is a revolving door between Monsanto and the U.S.
government. Take the case of Donald Rumsfeld. In between serving as defense
secretary in the Ford and George W. Bush administrations, Rumsfeld was
president of a Monsanto subsidiary. Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce
Mickey Kantor also became a Monsanto executive after leaving politics.

Michael Taylor represents a classic example of this revolving door policy.
Between 1976 and 1980, Taylor was in charge of food safety at the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration. He then worked for a law firm that represented
Monsanto. In 1991, he returned to the FDA and was given an executive
position overseeing the deregulation of genetically modified products.
Then, in the latter half of the 1990s, he went back to Monsanto to serve as
vice president.

My documentary, "The World According to Monsanto," was first screened on
French TV to an audience of 1.5 million.

It was then shown on TV channels and in movie theaters across the world. It
is screened in Japan from September.

One of my previous movies was about the French Army, also others have
delved into the role of governments and giant corporations. I want to
practice scrupulous journalism, so the first thing I do when researching
materials is to look at documents that are publicly available on the

If ones searches long enough, it is possible to find governmental and
corporate material that, while not exactly "top secret," certainly contains
a lot of information. Of course, I travel a lot to carry out research to
back up my Internet findings.

For this documentary, I spent a year interviewing people from 10 countries,
among them the United States, Central and South America, Vietnam and India.
I was able to compare Monsanto's claims with what is actually occurring on
the ground.

Monsanto wouldn't be interviewed for the documentary, but by carefully
piecing together the pieces of the puzzle, I was able to get a clearer
picture of how the company is behaving.


For my next documentary, I may look at farming in Fukushima Prefecture in
the context of the nuclear disaster there last year. I am also interested
in the Japanese "teikei" system of community supported agriculture.

Fukushima's farmers have suffered a lot: not just directly from the
disaster but also from the scaremongering that followed. As a nuclear
giant, France is watching the situation in Japan very closely.

While conducting research into organic farming and other kinds of
environmentally friendly agriculture, I became very interested in the
teikei system, whereby consumers can buy agricultural products directly
from the farmer.

The word teikei has now been adopted in Europe and the United States.

Through teikei, consumers can meet the people who grow their food and find
out how this food is produced. I believe it is a model for global farming
and also points the way to the future of agriculture. Japanese people
should be proud of this wonderful system.

*Robin's documentary movie "The World According to Monsanto" is shown in
theaters across Japan from September.*

*This article was compiled from an interview by Noriko Akiyama from Asahi
Shimbun's GLOBE.*

*Watch the full 1 hour, 49 minutes documentary below:*

The World According to Monsanto': Fighting a Global Agribusiness Through
the Power of Film <http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/09/23-5>
� 2012 The Asahi Shimbun
[image: Marie-Monique

Marie-Monique Robin was born in 1960 and grew up on a farm in France. She
has received numerous awards for her film-making, such as for her 1995
documentary on the organ trade, "The Eye Thieves," and "The Death Squads:
The French School" in 2003.

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