Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The New Science Of Food: Chemically Contaminated, Genetically Modified - Video Short

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Chemically contaminated, genetically modified foods find their way onto our tables with alarming ease, despite their unknown effects upon our bodies and on the natural ecosystems that have supported us until now. As an increasingly smaller number of corporations comes to control the production of world agriculture, the matter at stake is not only the potential health poisoning we may inflict on ourselves, but the dramatic and often irreversible crisis in which we place the welfare of thousands of farmers around the world.

Photo credit: Tracy Hebden

Genetically modified foods are defined by wikipedia as:

''...produced from genetically modified organisms (GMO) which have had their genome altered through genetic engineering techniques. The general principle of producing a GMO is to insert DNA that has been taken from another organism and modified in the laboratory into an organism's genome to produce both new and useful traits or phenotypes. ''

Unfortunately the testing required before such genetically modified foods are released into the food-chain is totally insufficient, with no conception of the long term effects that might be suffered by both individuals and entire ecosystems. Nevertheless, the agrochemical corporations persist in mixing the genes of fireflies and moths with our potatoes and corn, and those of ocean fish with our strawberries and tomatoes.

But often these unnatural hybrids are not designed to create more and plentiful supplies of food, but rather to tighten the control that a shrinking number of agrochemical companies have over its production process. The creators of pesticides, for instance, create pesticide-resistant GM crops, patent the seeds, and then exert tight control over the use of both by farmers. Where for centuries farmers could save and develop seeds, they are now faced with proprietary crops that they must license on a yearly basis, becoming effectively slaves to the seed sources for their survival.

In the following short film 'Contaminated', the issues surrounding the chemical contamination, genetic modification and monopolistic control of our food are discussed in alarming detail.

A full text transcript accompanies the video.

Contaminated - the new science of food

Brought to my attention by the ever-provocative Guerrilla News Network (GNN), Contaminated - the new science of food details the growth of GM foods, the handful of powerful agrochemical companies behind them, and their growing targeting of developing nations.

As the consumers of developed nations continue to fight against genetically modified foods, the companies fueling GM uptake switch their focus to the developing world as a fresh source of revenue.

The results could be devastating, with the very real possibility that these unpredictable crops could fail on a massive scale at any point, leaving millions without food. And that is before you consider the recent research findings that say that GM crops can cause cancer and a host of other harmful effects.

Scientists Fritjof Capra and Vandana Shiva are joined by environmentalist Paul Hawken in this seven-minute exposé of the new science of food that is not only threatening our health, but our ongoing existence as a species.

The video is followed by a full text English transcript.

Video - Contaminated


Directed / Produced by:
Josh Shore

Co-produced by:
Anthony Lappé

Edited by:
Meghan Eckman

Video Contaminated - Text Transcript

Caption: A shrinking number of agrochemical companies are modifying the genetic structure of our food... But they don't want to tell us.

Fritjof Capra - physicist, systems theorist, author: Food is something very existential, and it's something very fundamental to human beings. And so people, even if they don't understand the intricacies and complications of genetic engineering get naturally suspicious when they suspect that their food is chemically contaminated or genetically modified, and the secrecy of the corporations heightens that suspicion.

Paul Hawken - environmentalist, entrepreneur, author: Farmers around the world are in trouble. Why are they in trouble? They're in trouble because there's too much food.

There's too much, and it suppresses prices. So those farmers are highly susceptible to a crop, a seed, a product that will slightly reduce their costs, even if the long term effect is detrimental to their soil, to themselves, even to their family. And you see it in America, you see it in Canada, you see it in Argentina.

Caption: What's with the food?

Fritjof Capra: Five or so agrochemical corporations control about 85% of the food, and what they want to do - in their own words - is gain control over the entire food chain, from the seeds to the table.

Paul Hawken: Corporations are putting in a gene from another species into germ plasm to create characteristics or traits which are more desirable to whom? Well, in most cases these traits are desirable to agri-business, that is to say companies who are mass producers of corn and soybeans. Generally mass producers of food that goes to cattle make meat. The danger of this is really unknown - scientifically we are on a threshold that we've never crossed before. We simply do not have the expertise to judge whether we know what we're doing or not.

Caption: Moth genes are being fused with potatoes.

Arctic Char genes are being fused with strawberries.

Flounder genes are being fused with tomatoes.

Firefly genes are being fused with corn.

Fritjof Capra: Monsanto, one of the corporate giants in this field, engineered soybeans to make them resistant to a specific pesticide. Now, it happens to be a pesticide sold by Monsanto, of course. It's called Roundup, so these soybeans are 'Roundup ready' as they say.

The purpose is not to increase the yield of soybeans. The purpose is to sell more Roundup.

Caption: Around the world, weeds have begun to develop resistance to Roundup herbicide.

Fritjof Capra: They have other crops that have a pesticide in them, and they want to sell these special seeds. Now they have patented the seeds, they sell them for inflated prices, they charge a technology fee on top of it and then they have intellectual property rights so that farmers are not allowed to save the seeds or develop them as farmers have done for hundreds of years.

Caption: IPRS - Intellectual Property Rights let corporations patent living things, giving them ownership of the plant and all its future generations.

Paul Hawken: So they buy the seeds, but they don't own the seeds. They have a license to use it for one year. The next year they have to buy it again. So now, they're just like somebody who's been enticed to use drugs and now has to form a relationship with their dealer. Who has the power in that situation? The dealer has the power.

Photo credit: Hagit M

Caption: Fearing rejection from US consumers corporations have lobbied against having to label genetically modified foods.

Fritjof Capra: In Europe, where the anti-GM movement is much stronger the English supermarkets have agreed not to buy GM foods.

Vandana Shiva - physicist, eco-activist, author: So the industry now knows that neither Europe or the US is the place where they can keep this expansion on, and they're moving to Asia. And they're trying to push this technology on India by violating every rule under the sun, and every environmental law that we have had, corrupting our scientific institutions, our government, and that's why I've sued them, I've got Monsanto in court, in the Supreme Court of India. Because they're violating our laws.

Fritjof Capra: Hunger is not a technological problem. The world produces enough food, so you may ask 'why are there so many hungry people?' Well there are hungry people because the food is not distributed to them, it's not offered to them. Hunger is a problem of food being concentrated in the hands of the rich and powerful, and poor people not having access to it.

Well, GM food is going to perpetuate that. In fact, it's going to make it worse. It's going to increase poverty, it's going to increase hunger.

Vandana Shiva: So it is not a strategy to produce more food, it's a strategy to undermine small farmers' livelihoods, create ecological risks and create health risks. India can do without all this.

Fritjof Capra: Life has evolved for over three billion years. There is a wisdom in the organization of natural living systems, ecosystems and living organisms that we should take to heart.

Paul Hawken: We have never had a worldwide famine, and there's no reason to. But should we follow what these companies are proposing, it'd be very easy because if the characteristics and the traits of these seeds should fail catastrophically, they will fail worldwide.

Food for thought

Even if you ignore the very real threats to our health posed by genetically modified foods, it is impossible to deny that the companies behind them are not harmful on a much greater scale. Allowing a handful of powerful agrochemical companies - whose primary interest is in pleasing their shareholders - to control the food chain is not the wisest choice we could make as consumers.

Would you let Verizon, Microsoft or Fox decide how you vote, what you eat, or the type of medical care you receive? The idea is totally abhorrent. By the same measure, can you really trust huge profit-driven corporations, patenting living organisms and reigning in control over agricultural production to look out for our best interests? Capra, Hawken and Shiva would argue not.

Yet just as the developed world strengthens its resolve to ban or limit the uses of unsound farming methods, the companies behind GM foods are switching their focus to the developing nations, where politicians and scientists can be bought with greater ease and impunity. These unpredictable crops have not been tested sufficiently to allow us any knowledge of their long term effects. Should they fail on a massive scale at some point in the future, we could be looking at one of the greatest famines the world has known.

The short terms gains of genetically modified foods chiefly benefit those that produce, patent and sell them to farmers on short leases, keeping tight control over their intellectual property. The long term effects, however, are beyond the understanding of any of us. It is this unsettling point that Contaminated attempts to drive home.

Additional resources

If you would like to learn more about the Contaminated film and genetically modified foods, you might want to take a look at the following links:

Originally written by Michael Pick for Master New Media

Michael Pick -
Reference: GNN [ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
2010-01-25 23:12:08


I haven't actually read your article, but that apple is naturally occurring. It's not some genetic modification gone haywire.

2007-03-18 21:51:05

Tery Spataro

G-foods sound very scary. I would love to know more about food conspiracy theories. I'll post this on Daily Eats too. Thanks for sending this!

posted by Robin Good on Saturday, March 17 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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