August 9, 2012

Can a Film #StopMonsanto? {Interview}

There have been many things written about Monsanto here on elephant. But not this.

hashtag on twitter for quite a while, #StopMonsanto is now a movie-in-the-making. Not a documentary, but a feature film.

Not sure what Monsanto is? Scroll to the bottom and read “About Monsanto.”

Fed up with Monsanto and how they’re treating farmers and consumers, Mariel Hemingway, Blythe Metz and others decided to make this scripted movie about it in an effort to expose—and stop—the transnational company.

We want to know whether the foods we eat contain GMOs (they better not!) and we think that all foods should be properly labeled. We hope the movie is entertaining and helps educate viewers about what Monsanto is doing and what the company stands for.

I had the opportunity to interview some of the folks behind this movie.

Let me introduce you to them…

Executive Producer: Academy Award nominated actress, author, activist and health expert Mariel Hemingway.

Well, in her case (a busy, busy woman), I’ve got her on video:


Blythe Metz—the host and producer of the popular online show Blythe Raw Live and the author of “The SuperNatural Green Diet.”

Priscilla Woolworth—an eco warrior who runs the eco-friendly almanac and store priscillawoolworth.com.

Was there an aha moment that motivated you to Stop Monsanto?

Blythe Metz

Blythe: It’s been more of a cumulative build after reading and learning so much about what this company/technology and other agro-giants have done, are doing, and plan to do. We simply, as a culture, can not be too busy or uninterested to learn what is going on, because our health and very existence depend on it. I realize that sounds dramatic. But, it is actually that serious.

However, the great news is, I don’t think for a second that it will come to that. I think more and more people are learning that it’s easy to make adjustments to avoid GMO/GE food. Monsanto has caused so much pollution, death and disease, but we can still turn it around, as a culture, if we become aware of what is actually happening in agro-business.

What motivated you to create a movie?

Priscilla: There have been documentaries made about Monsanto, which are very informative but have limited mass appeal. A feature film has the possibility of reaching many more people.

Blythe: It was another producer’s idea, who is suppose to remain nameless I’m told.

Priscilla Woolworth

How did you connect with the other producers to develop the idea for this movie project?

Blythe: The great nameless producer put us all together.

Priscilla:They asked me to be involved because they know I am passionate about the movement of change to a sustainable and healthier lifestyle/world.

What are the most important things you’d like our readers to know about Monsanto and genetically modified food?

Blythe: Replacing real food crops, with GMO corn that will be used as feed for animals that aren’t suppose to eat that, animals that are intended for human consumption, is literally replacing the food that is medicine with the food that creates illness. A whole foods plant based diet is, without question, the basis of human health. GMO agro business creates food that isn’t good for life from the micro-organism in the soil, to the water, to all life expression.

Genetically engineering seeds to have a pesticide within them is killing bees by the droves, that and the monoculture nature of GE/GMO crops. Bees pollinate nearly every healthy bite we eat. No bees, no people, or at least no healthy people. This is just scratching the surface of the devastation this technology can cause.

Priscilla: People need to know what is happening right under their noses. Monsanto is a bully because they are fighting to prevent the labeling of foods that include GMOs. I am outraged by this as I feel it’s our right to know what is in our food and so we can make the choice whether we want to buy it or not. GMOs go against nature.

There is nothing natural in GMOs. We need to nourish our land and not add synthetics and chemicals to it. Everything in nature is connected and relies on each other for survival, so we are doomed if GMOs take over growing food organically and naturally. Even though I don’t know personally any of the Organic farmers that have been sued for patent infringement, I am upset for them because I understand how hard they are working to grow food organically, for all of us to enjoy and to be bullied by this giant corporation, is all a tactic to discredit the farmers, and force them out of business ultimately.

Monsanto has one goal and one goal alone, and that is to control how food is grown around the world, not just in the USA and it’s terrifying how they are going about reaching their goal.

Was there anything you’ve learned about Monsanto that surprised you and that many people probably don’t know about?

Priscilla: I was surprised that more people don’t know about Monsanto (most of my friends!) and that it’s not front page news.

Blythe: Everything I hear about Monsanto surprises me.

What are the biggest difficulties you had in putting together this project and how did you overcome them?

Blythe: So far, the funding. Our social philanthropy campaign is one of the highest shared campaigns on indiegogo, yet, the people who are sharing it, aren’t donating. An angel offered $1 for ever $1 donation, but we aren’t seeing $1 donations. I wonder why.

What do you hope to accomplish that other sustainable food related films have not?

Blythe: #StopMonsanto is a narrative feature film, not a documentary. The story is of a perennial underachiever who gets involved in protesting against Monsanto to impress his ex-girlfriend. Once the main character and his friends start attending protests and learn more about Monsanto, they become passionately involved in the movement to #stopmonsanto. Our hero does manage to impress his ex-girlfriend, but as the protests escalate, he and his friends realize they are being watched and their lives are at risk. The story takes a dark, but real, turn from there.

We feel a narrative story will reach people in a deeper emotional way than a documentary, this is why we have chosen a narrative. However,  much of the drama in the film is based on true stories. The film, Blood Diamond, made me aware of the issues surrounding the diamond industry. Because of that film, if I find myself buying diamonds, I will make sure they are ethically harvested diamonds.

We want to make a movie that entertains while positively influencing the masses, which truly has power. We all want the same thing; clean food, air and water, and a healthy body to fully enjoy life. We hope that people will support our creative way of sharing vital information with the public. We believe that people will know how and why to avoid GMO after seeing this film.

While I know your goal is to create this movie, how has this process changed you? 

Priscilla: It’s reminded me how vital it is that we show the public what is really going on so they can make informed decisions.

Blythe: I think this might be best answered after we wrap production. We are in the development stage now. Hopefully, we will get funded and be in production by the end of August or September.

What’s the most interesting question I should be asking that I haven’t thought of yet?

Blythe: Who’s our director? Good question! We haven’t decided or made an offer. We need to be funded before we can make an offer.

Priscilla: I’d like to ask you two questions, Lynn: Do you have any good ideas on how we all can stop monsanto? What would be the most effective way to put them out of business?

Lynn: Ha! I’ve thought this might be a good opportunity for streaking to come back into fashion—a streak against Monsanto in every major city. That would definitely get the attention of news networks and provide a platform for getting the message out. Going back to basics, au naturale, etc. And a way to say “kiss our ass.”

Seriously, though (and I am half—possibly three quarters—serious about the streaking part). Education, education, education. Loads of money to take Monsanto to court. Star power. A reality show.

Blythe: I love the idea of streaking demonstrations across the country! That is so funny and you’re right, it would get attention and be effective.

Have you had any contact with current or former Monsanto employees? What have you learned from that?P

Priscilla: None and boy would I love to pick their brain(s).

Blythe: Not yet. I’m not sure that we will. We’ll see. It’s fun to see what comes out of the woodwork when projects start. Magic always happens in film making, it must.

Is there a petition we can sign to help stop monsanto in the meantime?

Blythe: Yes, thank you for asking! You can go to OrganicConsumers.org and join the Millions Against Monsanto movement.

What else are you doing now and what’s next for you?

Blythe: Right now we are in the fundraising efforts. We are reaching out to blogs and sites to help us spread the word. We need donations! It only happens if the people give. Our budget is quite small for a feature, at 150K. Even $1 donations count. I hope 150,000 people are inspired to give $1!

Priscilla: Using social media outlets, I post info about Monsanto whenever I feel it’s appropriate. I have to be careful though, because most people aren’t interested in reading controversial news and just don’t respond, and especially if they are getting bombarded about it.

I am working on my first book LOLA, which is for girls ages 15-22, about living a sustainable lifestyle and making healthy choices and Monsanto will be mentioned of course. These girls need to know what’s going on and how they can protect their health and well being.

Please help #stopmonsanto:

>> Share this post with your friends and family.

>> Donate to the #StopMonsanto film project on indigogo.com.

>> Join the Millions Aganst Monsanto movement.

>> Tweet this: Please Help @StopMonsanto! http://indiegogo.com/stopmonsanto #stopmonsanto ~ via @elephantjournal

More About Monsanto.

It was originally founded in 1901 as a company manufacturing chemicals, responsible for agricultural chemicals including DDT, PCBs for industries, components of Agent Orange for the military, and bovine growth hormone. It is now a transnational corporation and leading source of genetically-modified (GM) crops. It is also the largest seed company controlling 27% of the commercial seed market (90% of soy seed market) and providing the technology for 90% of GM crops around the globe.

They claim to be the solution to world hunger. But there’s currently no evidence that GM crops produce greater yields than conventional crops. And many argue there are hazards to both environment and health. Monsanto is fighting against labeling GM foods and is gaining a stranglehold on our food supply all around the world.

Monsanto infringes upon “food sovereignty” rights. La Via Campesina defines food sovereignty as the right of all peoples to produce and consume healthy, culturally appropriate, sustainably-produced food—and to define and own their own food and agriculture systems.

Some facts:*

>> Monsanto’s Roundup is the world’s best selling herbicide, despite industry regulators including the European Commission having known for years that it is linked to birth defects.

>> The growth of GM crops has led to a massive rise in pesticide use.

>> In the US an epidemic of resistant ‘superweeds’ has been caused by the continual application of glyphosate on crops that are marketed as glyphosate-tolerant crops.

>> In August 2011, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported that glyphosate used on GM crops was found in rainfall and rivers in the Mississippi Basin—jeopardising human health by contaminating drinking water and aquatic life.

>> New GM crop applications that can resist even more toxic herbicides are now pending approval as well, even though these herbicides are linked to cancer and other serious illnesses and were set to be phased out.

>> Monsanto and agribusiness in general are increasingly unwelcome wherever they operate. They ruin local agriculture and harm communities with their attempts to dominate food production systems.

>> As a result of Monsanto’s presence, local seeds are becoming illegal, biodiversity is disappearing, land is being contaminated, and farmers and agricultural workers are being poisoned, criminalized and displaced from their land. Local food producers aiming to feed communities have to compete with huge corporations whose sole objective is to make profits.

* source: report by La Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth International, Combat Monsanto

Adapted from my blog, I Count for myEARTH.

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