We chatted earlier this week with Deborah Koons Garcia, filmmaker and widow of the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia.
Q. Why did you make a film on genetically modified food?
A. When I was in college, I became a vegetarian. I also stopped drinking soft drinks and eating white sugar. I was eating a healthy organic diet, and I felt better. I was looking for a film project about four or five years ago, and I decided I wanted to make a film about something important, not a little art house film that nobody saw but one for the larger society rather than the film festival world. Then I found out about genetically engineered food and the patenting of seeds. I figured that I was very educated about [food issues], but I didn't know about these things. Now it's time to let everyone know.
Q. You had an even earlier experience related to agriculture with a high school science project.
A. That's right. I was 15 years old in 1965, and I treated corn with [a chemical] and radiation. I won first prize. I was on TV. Even then, I looked at the plants that were normal and the ones that I treated, which were bigger and thicker and deformed looking. I didn't want to eat those plants.
Q. In Europe, consumers are very adamant about not wanting genetically modified food in their markets. But Americans don't seem concerned. Why?
A. I think Americans do think that we have this remote control that we can just flip the channel if we don't want to worry. But we do need to worry. Why are there so many food allergies? Why is there so much obesity? We are the wealthiest, most privileged country on Earth, and our people are not healthy. Most people are on some drug. There's something worrisome about that. We are what we eat, and I think that it's starting to be pretty obvious that this is a big issue.
Q. What effect do you hope your film will have on the typical moviegoer?
A. I hope that they'll say, "Instead of going to the store, I'll go to a farmers market." I don't know if it will have the same effect as "Silent Spring," where DDT was eliminated from the whole ecosystem, but it already has made a difference. If we could get a labeling law passed, that would be a huge victory for me.
Q. Where else are you showing the film?
A. This weekend, I will be taking it to England for the Labour Party convention. [Genetically modified food] is labeled there, so not a lot of people buy it. I showed it in Canada and in New Zealand, and it got a great response. I think we have better weapons of mass distraction.
Q. What's going to be your next topic?
A. I might make a film about soil. I know. My friends say, "Oh, great. You want to make a film about dirt." But it's something that not a lot of people know about.