Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution, or Nos Enfants Nous Accuseront (Our Children Will Accuse Us), is the latest documentary designed to open the public's eyes regarding the danger of food. While Food, Inc. uncovered the horrors of the industrial food system and Fresh highlighted farmers and food activists working with alternative models of food production, Food Beware links pesticides and herbicides with cancer and other health problems.
Juxtaposed against a series of UNESCO panels and town hall meetings presenting data on environmental contamination is the story of the French village of Barjac, which has decided to turn the school lunch organic to protect the health of its children. The film is filled with sweeping shots of the gorgeous countryside around Barjac, moving testimony from cancer victims and their families linking their diseases to exposure to chemicals and toxins, and delightful scenes of French school children growing plants in the school garden and singing about the evils of environmental pollution.
While the film's statistics are shocking (see after the interview) and no parent wants to believe that their children's generation will not be as healthy as their own, it is hard to imagine this film gaining as much popularity in the US where critics call organic proponents elitist and argue that it's unrealistic to expect families to take the time needed to cook. Chefs like Bill Telepan are doing their part to improve school lunches, but much more reform needs to be here in the US before American school cafeterias serve their organic, school garden-grown meals family-style à la Barjac.
Until then, read my interview with director Jean-Paul Jaud and watch the film.
LM: When did you first become aware of the dangers of pesticides and herbicides?
JPJ: Five years ago, I had colon cancer. Since then I've met several doctors and scientists, such as François Veillerette, Pr. Sultan, and Pr. Belpomme. Many of them told me that there are evidences of a link between food and cancers. Herbicides and pesticides are like delayed-action bombs for everyone: farmers, consumers, grounds, water, and all living things on earth.
LM: When did you first learn about Barjac's experiment with organic food?
JPJ: Pierre Masson, a great French specialist of "biodynamic," suggested I meet the French association "Un Plus bio" and its head, Stéphane Veyrat. With Stéphane, we looked for a village that fulfilled 3 main criteria: firstly, the school restaurant had to turn organic; secondly, landscapes around the village had to be as beautiful as possible (in order to show the contrast between beauty and poison under beauty); thirdly, the characters had to be interesting. Barjac was perfect regarding those criteria.
LM: What was the most surprising thing you learned while filming?
JPJ: One of the most amazing things I've learned is that more than 300 chemicals are contained in the umbilical cordon of a baby. Those chemicals are not only in newborn bodies, but also in adult bodies. They are like delayed-actions bombs in a baby's lifetime.
I also learned that pesticides make the ground die.
LM: Do you just eat organic food?
JPJ: Yes I do - at least when I am at home - not necessarily when I am traveling. I am not an extremist, just a convinced person. I've discovered, while eating organic, that I was cooking in a different way, that I was finding again former tastes and flavors I had forgotten. Then, for me, eating organic must be a synonym of pleasure. Until the fifties, we were eating organic, at least natural, didn't we?
LM: Yes. I would agree we did. What do you have to say to people who complain that organic food is too expensive?
JPJ: Eating organic also means to learn a new way of cooking - it takes more time for instance. But I do not consider eating organic as a temporary fashionable way of eating. I think that it is a step towards future generations. The price of organic foods seems to me a minor question in comparison to the price of life...
LM: What suggestions do you have for government?
JPJ: To stop thinking in a short-term view. To really think of future generations, and to beware of temptations that make of man a creature above all other living beings. GMO is one the problems I want to mention here. We are part of living things, not above. Maybe just one word to conclude: respect.
Frightening statics from the film:
- In Europe every year, 100,000 children die of diseases caused by the environment.
- In Europe 70% of cancers are linked to the environment: 30% to pollution and 40% to food.
- In Europe cases of cancer in children have been increasing by 1.1% yearly for 30 years.
- In France the number of cancers in males has increased by 93% in 25 years.