By: Nick Capezzera, Evan Mascagni, and Shannon Post
Directed by Evan Mascagni & Shannon Post
I like to think that I maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising every day. Living in Central Illinois, I enjoy biking the country roads, breathing fresh air, and hearing the birds chirp and the bugs buzz. But breathing fresh air has become a bit of an exercise in frustration here. Just the other day, my quick 12 mile ride turned into an 18 mile one as I rerouted several times to avoid the spraying of some insecticide on the corn and bean crops. I swear I heard the engine of the tractor shift from 3rd to 4th gear while I attempted to jump my speed to 25 mph and not breathe in any of the peppery smelling chemicals. I failed. If that wasn’t enough, I then attempted to out-ride a crop duster. As the plane came zipping down toward me (yes, I know it was toward the field…I just happened to be near it), I imagined the pilot as a WWII fellow, complete with scarf flapping in the wind with a leather cap and round black goggles as he laughed hysterically at my inept efforts to out-ride his poisonous plumes.
“The Circle of Poison” focuses our attention to the very fact that insecticide and pesticide usage in agriculture is common practice all over the United States, but even more upsetting is the fact that we produce agricultural pesticides that we deem unsafe for our use here and then export them abroad. 23 of our 50 states produce harmful chemicals for export. Illinois is one such state that practices this. The loophole in the law allows companies to continue production for export, but with the FDA inspecting only 2% of the imported produce to the USA, how much of this has been treated with the chemicals that we have banned and then returned to us in the form of a coffee bean or a banana? In addition to this moral question, you must also ask yourself if the manufacturing process of this product is harmful to our environment. These are all alarming questions posed to us by the “Circle of Poison” as it traces back the history and “need” for pesticides, the harmful effects, and currently, the catastrophic results to the communities that receive our “goods.”
The Circle of Poison” brings to light what David Weir, author of book of the same name, declares to be a problem that we have created and will “…pay for as a species for generations to come.” The film interviews Weir and many other environmental specialists and farmers around the world to give us a clearer image as to how we have arrived at this state. We see first-hand the results of the pesticide application of Endosulfan, for example, banned in the US, but exported abroad to a community of cashew farms. The animals and bees began to die and then this village began to witness the visible human impact: a staggering rate of birth defects such as hydrocephaly, missing limbs and organs growing on the outside of the body. Traveling on to Costa Rica, a banana farmer and his 800 employees all became sterile…a known effect from exposure to the banned pesticide exported to “help” his crop. The film continues its research and findings in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, and even in Louisiana USA in a corridor called Cancer Alley.
In traveling the world, “Circle of Poison” talks not only with experts and community leaders and activists, but to doctors, mothers, and fathers. Their situations are heartbreaking, but their determination and strength is inspirational. The US Government, regulations, and powerful lobbyists seem to be in the center of the target zone of blame on this one. Interviews with former President Jimmy Carter and Senator Patrick Leahy enlighten us to the fight they have fought for more than 3 decades. Clips of Senate hearings support their endeavors and while they never gave up, their hope now lies with educating the American public. Even Noam Chomsky and His Holiness the Dali Lama chime in their thoughts, hopes, and suggestions.
“Circle of Poison” is a powerfully enlightening yet maddening documentary that can make a difference in this world if we choose to listen and learn. Problems are articulately documented with the artistry of filmmaking as we also learn about solutions. This film can start a dialogue and with dialogue, change can occur. If you watch one documentary this year, make it “Circle of Poison.” Available on VOD on digital platforms such as iTunes in late September.
For more information about this film, go to www.circleofpoisonfilm.com
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