________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 7 . . . . November 23, 2007


The Fight for True Farming: Food Autonomy vs. Agribusiness.

Ève Lamont. (Director). Nicole Hubert & Sylvie Van Brabant (Les Productions du Rapide-Blanc Producers). Colette Loumede (NFB Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2005.
89 min., 55 sec. VHS & DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 9906 177.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Frank Loreto.

** /4

As filmmaker Ève Lamont gathers food from her garden, she reflects out loud how good things used to taste when she was younger. Things have changed since then, and in The Fight for True Farming (Pas de pays sans paysans-the French title), she attempts to find out why. In doing so, she outlines some of the problems that confront farming today. Her scope is wide as there are many problems, and she shows that farming issues are global. Early in the film, it is clear that the focus will be on farming that does not rely on chemicals and the challenges that the family farms are facing.

     Lamont states that there is great pressure put on by the multinational chemical companies to keep farmers dependent on herbicides and pesticides. Their use has tripled since the 1970's although the use of chemicals has been tied to illnesses. New chemicals are tested by the manufacturer and do not have to face any government tests before implementation. There is no government incentive for farmers to go organic.

     When Canadian government scientists stated that giving animals feed that contained animal byproducts was a dangerous practice, they were dismissed. Years later, the cattle industry had to go through the Mad Cow Disease crisis. Although Europe did away with this practice years ago, Canada seems slow to follow.

     A French farmer says that, between 1955 to 1970, he was proud to be a farmer. However, many farmers in France were convinced by the multinationals to grow corn as cattle feed. In order to grow corn, they would need herbicides and pesticides to ensure a good crop. The seed was hybridized, and so the farmers had to buy new seed each year from the same companies. Heavy equipment was required to plant and harvest; the farmers had to buy fuel to run the equipment; and buildings had to be built to house the equipment. He is clearly disgusted by the state of farming today. Herbicides and nitrates are present in the water systems near corn fields. He states, "The water that flows by us today will be in our veins tomorrow."

     This promotion of corn has hit Quebec as well. The film shows how wetlands are being drained and woodlands cut in order to grow more corn. Pigs outnumber people in Quebec, and they have to be fed. Smaller family farms have been sold to pork producers who operate huge farms. In order to maximize crop production, a number of plants have been genetically modified. Here, the film goes west and features Percy Schmeiser's fight with Monsanto. Schmeiser was taken to court by Monsanto for planting canola seeds that he harvested from his own field. Since his crop had been cross-pollinated by Monsanto's GM canola, he was accused of stealing their patent. His argument, that planting one's own seeds is as old as farming itself, did not convince the courts. This fight went to the Supreme Court of Canada where he lost his case. Farmers are encouraged to grow GM crops even though the European market refuses to accept it. No independent tests were done to assess the potential long-term effects of transgenic crops before farmers were encouraged to plant them. According to the film, 62% of the western canola crop is GM product.

     In each segment, Lamont shows that there is resistance to each of these problems. There is an element of hope as people worldwide either go organic or openly challenge the agribusiness operations.

     Lamont tries to do a great deal in The Fight for True Farming, perhaps too much for one film. Each of the segments could be used in a variety of classes: Economics, Ethics, Agriculture, Ecology, Business, or Law. However, as a whole, this film would not work in a classroom. Most of the film is in French, and it is too long to show in one class period.

Recommended with reservations.

Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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