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BERTRAM VERHAAG; CODE OF SURVIVAL OR THE END OF GENETIC ENGINEERING (2017) - BERLIN AND BEYOND

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AMBOOTIA TEA PICKERS

Why non-GMO crops are essential for human health and the future of the environment.

Over the last ten-plus years, Bertram Verhaag has made nine films exploring aspects of genetic engineering and, increasingly, the healthy, organic alternatives. The tenth film, Code of Survival – or the End of Genetic Engineering, contrasts sustainable projects in Germany, India and Egypt with the continuing use of GMO farming in the US. Worldwide, millions of tons of the insecticide Roundup, wose active ingredient is glyphosate, are applied to the land year after year. The alarming consequences: poisoned soils, resistant superweeds, contaminated crops and sick livestock. Nonetheless, especially the United States continues to follow this model of GM-agriculture, which impoverishes the crops and makes the soil barren.

As the first US farmer, George Jeffords of Mississippi, tells us, many think they must raise GMO crops using Roundup, that they cannot afford to produce at high volume and low cost by natural methods. Dr. Jane Goodall points out the industry is driven by the profit motive. Obviously, the information we find if we Google this subject is deeply permeated with propaganda from the GMO producers saying that it's okay. The "biggies," Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer, Dupont - aren't nice guys. They are vicious invaders of land, dominators of property. How can killing everything in a field except the crop be healthy for the land or for animals and humans?

We hear from Alternative Nobel winner Ibrahim Abouleish of Egypt, his family and coworkers. For four decades his Sekem Farm has used compost to activate microorganisms in desert land and turn it into fertile land. He studied in Austria when he was 20 and returned at 40, where his family has grown up Sekem, an agricultural collective community where the education and whole community are considered as much as the soil.

Ulrich Walter of Lebensbaum is heard from. He buys tea from organic farmers in the Darjeeling region of India who own the Ambootia Tea Group, the largest biometric producers of tea in the world. Women are seen on their knees, and also standing, hand-picking the tea leaves. The Indian family owning and running the farm took some of the farms over in the Eighties when the soil had been ruined by use of chemicals and restored it with compost and careful cultivation. Both this Darjeeling tea farm and the organic farm in Egypt use cow dung in cow horns buried in soil to condition it.

We cringe when the film returns to the US, this time to Idaho, because we think that here Roundup will reign. But instead we hear from Dr. Don Huber, Plant Pathologist, a world authority on GMO's. He explains that genetic engineering has caused plants to be reduced in minerals, and is causing them to be further reduced; our animals are undernourished, and the number of people with autism, gluten intolerance, cancer, etc. is growing. We go to Iowa, where a farmer raised non-GMO and GMO-fed pigs and found how much better the pigs did. Howard Vlieger is an American farmer and agricultural consultant who is a powerful spokesman, like Dr. Huber, for biodiverse and non-GMO agricultural strong spokesman for biodiverse non-GMO agriculture. He explains how the impoverishment of the soil and the crops and the sickening of humans all are good business for the chemical giants whose business is selling treatments and drugs at each end of the cycle.

At the end, Bertram Verhaag explains how lacking scientific aptitude, he nonetheless decided decades ago he decided to focus on making documentaries about genetic engineered plants. He realized he didn't need profound technical knowledge to decide he preferred a natural environment. He convinces the viewer of the validity and urgency of his viewpoint in this powerful film.

Code of Survival, The End of Genetic Engineering 95 mins., debuted in Germany 1 Jun. 2017. It was screened here as part of the Berlin and Beyond series where it shows Tue. Feb. 13, 2018 6:00pm at Goethe-Institut, San Francisco (the Northern California Premiere).

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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