The Future of Food

Documentary by Deborah Koons Garcia. Featuring Percy Schmeiser. Rated general. Opens Friday, December 2, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas

Forget Halliburton. They just fix stuff after the U.S. government breaks it. Monsanto is the mega-corporation to fear, since it manages to combine the voraciousness of a gargantuan food processor with the omnipresence of a pharmaceutical giant that is neither jolly nor green. It has found a way to combine the fuel we need daily with the chemicals they've decided we have to buy.

Monsanto has done this primarily through the development of genetically modified foods that were designed specifically to complement the insecticides it invented to go with the grains it likewise created and patented. If that sounds ass-backward to you, then your views on the health of your planet are probably in line with those of Deborah Koons Garcia, a food activist, filmmaker, and the last wife of guitar god Jerry Garcia.

Her approach to the material is that of unabashed advocacy, with Monsanto and the big players-unrepresented by smiling spokespeople-the obvious villains. There's no suggestion, though, that they're out to do harm. It's always and only about the money. For decades, they hammered the U.S. Supreme Court for permission to patent genetic developments created in their research labs, and only got their way during the Reagan administration. That was when Donald Rumsfeld and other heavy hitters of Bush I and II eras were doing the legal lifting for Monsanto.

There's a montage sequence addressing the revolving-door system of drug-and-food reps alternating between lobbying jobs and being assigned to public agencies designed to oversee their clients. Creepy. But even more worrisome is the explanation that GM foods (particularly corn) are loaded with viruses, bacteria, and other volatile elements that have come of corporate researchers' shallow, get-it-on-the-market experiments with gene-splicing.

By the way, the awkwardly narrated Future is similar in content to Life Running Out of Control. That German doc (with English narration), which came to last year's VIFF, spent time with some of the same farmers-especially Saskatchewan's Percy Schmeiser and the bellwether case in which Monsanto claimed all his grain because some of their grain drifted into a corner of his fields. But the European effort was entirely more menacing in tone and substance-nothing like three-eyed fish and Schwarzeneggered steers to get your blood pressure to dangerous levels.

The Future gets slightly more hopeful as it goes along. Most countries outside of the U.S. are moving to control, label, or reject GM foods, and the demand for organic, locally grown produce has skyrocketed in the past decade. Over the next horizon, you still might have to wear shades over your three eyes, but the arugula will be fresh!