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Film | The Bad Apple: Monsanto’s Dirt File

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If sin was a government office building, then an entire floor would be devoted to the file on the world’s largest biotechnology company, Monsanto. At least if this documentary is anything to go by.

The World According To Monsanto (Le Monde Salon de Monsanto) is this file. It was first aired on French and German TV, and I believe is yet to be broadcast in America.

French journaliste, Marie-Monique Robin, traces the breadth of Monsanto’s corporate sins and hangs it all out on the line to dry. From its early days manufacturing Agent Orange and PCBs, to its current involvement in food production via genetically engineered (GE) seeds. It also looks at the dodgy relationship between Monsanto and food regulators in North America, where GE food crops are very much embedded.

She’s pulled together interviews with former US Food & Drug Administration staffers, scientists, farmers from America, Canada, Paraguay and India, and journalists. She also has access to some pretty juicy confidential Monsanto files that were anonymously left at the office of one journo.

All of this is threaded together with Robin’s narration (tho I think I got the dubbed version) and Google. Yes, Google. The film switches to new topics with scenes of Robin at her home computer typing search terms into Google. I think it’s a stylistic touch, and not suggesting that you can expose a multinational giant by using the search engine of, well, another multinational.

At 109 minutes, TWAT Monsanto is a demanding watch, but there is a lot of terrain to cover. Literally, the US, Canada, Paraguay, Brazil, France, India, Mexico, Vietnam … from the top of my head. I think Robin does really well to contain all these different stories, each of which could be a feature themselves (I would have liked to see it focus more on Monsanto’s current GE initiatives rather than dragging us through the company’s torrid history).

The science also requires your attention because it’s crucial to understanding the arguments the film is making. If there was a bigger budget, a lot more could be done to better explain some of this stuff, which would save Robin’s time explaining a lot of the technicality and thus make a shorter feature.

Of course, a critical question for documentaries of this kind is “balance”. Michael Moore‘s films (eg Farenheit 911) were criticised for being ideologically biased. I’m not entirely convinced a documentary needs to be balanced, because I can go out into the world and do my own research. The outrage raised simply motivates and inspires me. And even if a documentary does include both POVs, I’m sure it would still suffer similar criticism.

Robin’s film does have one important voice missing and that’s Monsanto’s. Tho, as the film explains at the end (and as confirmed by Monsanto itself) Robin went to some lengths to interview reps from the company — all of which said “No”. Monsanto did not wish to participate because quote “it would not be positive”. :s

TWAT Monsanto is corporate conspiracy/crime come to life. If you enjoyed Michael Clayton, well this is the real McCoy. It sits alongside movies such as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and The Corporation, tho on a smaller budget.

Here’s a clip from the movie. Check out how Monsanto adulterate Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”. Well, a wonderful world, according to Monsanto.

Related links

» The entire movie is available on YouTube in 10 Parts
» Monsanto According to Monsanto — a blog from the company [‘s PR department?]
» Monsanto in Australia

Vote here for the most scandalous big corporate

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Written by Darren Smith

25 April 2009 at 4:55 pm

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