The bad guy in Deborah Koons Garcia's documentary is Monsanto, an ugly corporate ogre that manufactures genetically modified seeds. The victims? Well, that'd be you and me. While all 15 countries in the European Union require that food products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be labeled as such, American consumers unknowingly purchase such food every day. One of the main points made in Food is that what we don't know can indeed hurt us.
Koons Garcia uses archival footage, interviews with experts (Andrew Kimbrell, from the activist Center for Food Safety, is featured prominently), and diagrams and graphics reminiscent of your eighth-grade science class to outline how the villain gained power. In the 1970s, Monsanto introduced the powerful weed killer Roundup, as our gentle narrator explains. This alone might have eventually been enough to merit Monsanto some enemies, but then it developed its patented, herbicide-resistant "Roundup Ready" seeds. Here Food simply uses a title card to state: "Whoever controls the seeds controls the food."
Further portraying Monsanto as the bully, Koons Garcia then interviews farmers who have been nearly wiped out by its lawsuits. By first creating Roundup Ready canola seeds and then patenting them, Monsanto has created an America where any canola plant resistant to Roundup automatically belongs to the company. And don't think that proprietary business model stops there. If you're concerned about the fate of small farmers, keeping organic produce on the market, or the health of your children, you really ought to see this film.
This isn't a Michael Moore doc; no one stalks CEOs or drives around North Dakota fields in a weirdly altered tractor trying to get attention. It has the feel of a PBS show, which is not to say it's boring, just that it's not sexy, slick, or altogether exciting. But as "foodie" culture becomes more about celebrity chefs and their TV shows, Food is an extremely well-done reminder about incredibly important issues both on and off the table. (NR)
Deborah Koons Garcia will join local food activist Craig Winters for a Q&A following the 7:10 p.m. screening on Wed., Nov. 23.