The Future of Food (2004) Movie Review

Besides all of the generous plants who give us oxygen, photosynthesis which makes that possible, and the 99.5% reliability of the TV turning on everyday if our cable bills have been paid, there is nothing we over-nourished Americans take advantage of more than food. Most of us eat with our eyes; we choose meals and food products that have the shiniest advertisements, the end caps at our nearest super market, or like my mother, we simply buy whatever is on sale.

“The Future of Food” is an informative, well-paced and sometimes appalling documentary that lets even the health conscious consumer know that reading the sodium and saturated fat contents of a product is not enough anymore. Written and directed by Deborah Koons Garcia, the documentary deals with a new and disturbing trend in the food industry that is much more pervasive than the quote un-quote irresponsibility of fast food chains targeted in the popular “Super Size me”. That trend is genetic modification.

The perspective of “The Future of Food” is wide in scope, but fundamentally breaks down the epic struggle between the forgotten farmers on the continent of America and the global attitudes of agricultural corporations. We are given intimate portraits of farming families in the U.S. and Canada through a series of interviews spliced in between commentary by scientific experts, lawyers, geneticists and narrative about a brazen company called Monsanto.

In the last few decades, technology has evolved — or humans have evolved and advances in technology are the by-product — in such a way that we can both cook the meat of a pig on our tank-like outdoor grills or find its genetic recipe and create one in a lab. This new world of genetic magic has allowed huge companies like Monsanto to actually invent and patent their own unique brand of seeds. Corn, wheat, and peas, you name it, Monsanto and their team of scientists have developed a super complicated (just try to follow it) way of splicing and dicing the DNA of these plants according to the caprices of their avarice. These Monsanto brand seeds do not naturally occur in nature, but the plants that grow from them are superficially identical to their un-altered brethren.

So what is the significance of all of this? Dishearteningly, the answer comes in the form of lawsuits and the rendering of the already waning small farming culture in America obsolete. The diabolical geniuses running Monsanto, a company that ironically manufactures pesticides as well, have filed multiple lawsuits against independent farmers when crops with their DNA imprint have been found on farms that attest to cultivating their own seed supply. Koons Garcia and the farmers interviewed suspect a set-up and multi-tiered corruption. They feel the drive of companies like Monsanto is to create strongholds on the industry by ushering out traditional farming methods and the farmers that use them.

The complex drama between Monsanto and its apparent victims could make even those totally ignorant on the subject think carefully and take sides. As for the science and history behind this movement to globalize agriculture and sacrifice tradition for efficiency, follow closely and rewind if you have to because it is a stunning mind screw.

The only flaw in “The Future of Food”, and those made by seemingly partisan minded filmmakers like it, is that at times it makes me feel like these extremely interesting subjects are only brought to light in order to bash the right wing and our present administration. Implications run rampant in docs of this ilk, and while I’m not going to stop watching them any time soon, I wish their makers would stray from the dogmatized, now everyman social awareness message of “F*** Bush”. We’ve all heard him speak, we know what the man is all about and can make up our minds for ourselves. As a viewer, I would rather hear more about the genetically modified rice I just ate and not have to be spoon-fed political ideology.

At dinner tonight, you will most likely eat some food product that has an ingredient which is “modified”. Just check the label. The world has not been consuming modified products long enough to know if negative side effects exist, and that limbo of knowledge will leave you running for your nearest organic foods store. Documentary lovers, or anyone brave enough to shun the old adage “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” take notice. Koons Garcia gives us a well done, intellectual piece of work that educates all of the providers out there, be it mothers, fathers, or the average market shopper, that cooking your own meals at home may no longer be the hands down healthy alternative to eating out or ordering in.

Deborah Koons (director) / Deborah Koons (screenplay)

Buy The Future of Food on DVD