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Symphony of the soil - film review

Sod it - Koon-ey tunes for organics not pesticides

Written by . Published on May 25th 2012.

SymphonyThe thinnest crust of allThis is the story of the soil. The dirt. Sods all. Actually it is an argument, an argument in favour of traditional, organic small time agriculture as against a synthetic, pesticide infused multi national chemical business that threatens the planet, if you see it that way, as perhaps we all should.

You want an answer to world poverty...Koons gives you one

Sixty per cent of crops in the USA, just one lingering statistic from a film largely joyously free of such dogma, are not grown for food at all, but is corn to make ethanol, a supposedly bio harvest to create alternative fuel. Should we grow food to feed ourselves or crops to power our lifestyles? Discuss.

This is not new. Flax for example was grown by the Egyptians and before to make cloth, while the linseed oil which also derives from the same genus of plant is far more than being useful to oil cricket bats and machines, and we now know is the single richest food in terms of minerals and vitamins we could be eating. But you don’t find it in Sainsbury’s.

Flax does not feature in this compelling movie. The focus is further down the chain – nitrogen. Ploughed back into the soil, to preserve its value, the organic farms here put almost half their efforts into growing crops to feed the soil. The alternative is to pour it on from a sack which offers a short term impulse but then degrades the land, until eventually you get dust bowls…

The star here is the soil itself – the raincoat thin covering on the rocks of the planet on which we all depend, filled with more micro-organisms than science has as yet managed to quantify. From a consumer point of view and ironically from a farmer’s point of view, the issues are straight forward but agriculture is no longer a level playing field and the needs of multi-national agencies is to sell weed killers and replace the old crops with GM patented seed they own. Profit and loss, shares and dividends, grants. Politicans and agri-business live in each other’s pockets as much as do banks.

This film is a sequel to the brilliant Food Inc that exposed the fear and addiction that modern farming has developed of agri-business. Here Deborah Koons Garcia demonstrates clinically, beautifully why and how the soil is vital to the planet and why tending it matters…

You want an answer to world poverty, you want to know why people starve, you want an explanation of the inequality of territory, Koons gives you one. Literally in spades.

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