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Filmmaking fuses with farming to produce a delightful documentary on the nation’s food industry

Shawn Levy, Portland Oregonian
It’s hard to imagine two acts of creation with less in common than farming and moviemaking, but Curt Ellis, a 27-year-old Lake Oswego native, experienced both pursuits at once.

In January 2004, along with his college buddy Ian Cheney, Ellis moved to Greene, Iowa, to grow one acre of corn and film not only the process of raising a crop but also the journey their corn took through the American food system.

With Ellis’ cousin, Aaron Woolf, behind the camera as director, and with the skills they learned as Yale students informing their research, the pair set about plowing, planting, fertilizing, weeding and, more interestingly, asking questions about the industrialized food system that gobbled up their crop and turned it into cattle feed, corn syrup and other staples of America’s cheap, unhealthful diet.

The result is “King Corn,” a thoroughly delightful documentary about two well-intentioned fellows who wander into a small town — and, indeed, a vanishing way of life — and ask honest questions about everything. Along the way, they and we learn some shocking and bemusing things about farming, food and how public agricultural policy affects the families who make what America eats and those of us who eat it.
(4 November 2007)

The western appetite for biofuels is causing starvation in the poor world

George Monbiot, The Guardian
Developing nations are being pushed to grow crops for ethanol, rather than food – all thanks to political expediency

It doesn’t get madder than this. Swaziland is in the grip of a famine and receiving emergency food aid. Forty per cent of its people are facing acute food shortages. So what has the government decided to export? Biofuel made from one of its staple crops, cassava. The government has allocated several thousand hectares of farmland to ethanol production in the district of Lavumisa, which happens to be the place worst hit by drought. It would surely be quicker and more humane to refine the Swazi people and put them in our tanks. Doubtless a team of development consultants is already doing the sums.
(6 November 2007)
Also at Common Dreams.

Biofuel Boom: Greenwashing and Crimes Against Humanity
Deconstructing Dinner
A two-part series that will crtically analyze what is being suggested as the worst public policy mistake in a generation. A prominent UN representative calls it a “crime against humanity”, and this “crime” may shock even the most environmentally conscious of individuals, because it is in reference to biofuels, a technology that is in the early stages of an unprecedented boom around the world. The green image being painted by industry and world leaders is doing little to convince skeptics that using agricultural land to grow fuel is as environmentally friendly as it is reported to be. Compounding the environmental debate, biofuels are being referred to by some of the world’s most influential international organizations as contributing to increases in global hunger at staggering rates. The money being thrown around the world and being invested into these biofuel technologies is incredible. In July 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised 1.5 billion dollars in incentives to get the Canadian biofuel industry up and running. British Petroleum has controversily invested half a billion dollars into biofuel research at the University of California at Berkeley.

The seriousness of this issue has prompted a careful approach to addressing this topic, and this two-part series has been designed to hopefully be the most critical 2-hours of radio produced to date on this rapid emergence of biofuels around the world.

Part I
We explore the key term being used by industry and government to promote the conversion of agricultural crops into fuel, and that term is “renewable”. The word presents an image of green and clean fuel, so much so, that the main biofuel industry association here in Canada is not only called the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association but has secured the web site address Quite an eco-friendly image being painted by the industry. The Canadian government has even placed biofuel inititiatives under their new “EcoAction” programs. But are Canadians being duped into thinking that biofuels are the answer to climate change?

Deconstructing Dinner is designed to educate listeners on the impacts our food choices have on ourselves, our communities and the planet. The show, hosted by Jon Steinman, is produced at Kootenay Co-op Radio (CJLY) in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada.
(6 November 2007)