Circle of Poison (educational)

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    • Directed by: Evan Mascagni, Shannon Post
    • Produced by: Evan Mascagni, Shannon Post, Nick Capezzera
Released: 2016
Running Time: 71 minutes
Language:  English 
Subjects: Environmental Studies , Agricultural Studies 
Educational Package includes: Extended interview with President Jimmy Carter

Once a pesticide is banned in the United States for its dangerous health and environmental effects, companies are still permitted to manufacture it for export only. This policy sends a message to the world that American lives are more valuable, yet ironically these toxic pesticides circulate the globe and come back to the US as residues on imported food in the circle of poison.

Narrated by Elizabeth Kucinich and featuring interviews with President Jimmy Carter, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Professor Noam Chomsky, Senator Patrick Leahy, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the film exposes the shocking practice of corporate profit in the toxic pesticide trade. It takes viewers across the globe, to India, Mexico, Argentina, Bhutan, and the United States, to document the emotional stories of victims and the inspiring ways communities are fighting back.

Video Librarian Review

Co-Directors Evan Mascagni and Shannon Post took inspiration from journalist David Weir’s 1981 book The Circle of Poison for this documentary, which explores how substances banned from the United States find their way into foreign markets through companies more concerned with profits than environmental effects. Twenty-three states currently produce pesticides intended for export only. The filmmakers start with endosulfan, which is illegal in the U.S., but has been used on Indian cashew farms for 30 years. At first, farmers were happy, because it killed the snakes, but then usage led to the disappearance of bees, the death of livestock, and severe birth defects (many of the children in Kasaragod have cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, and other conditions that developed after spraying their area). Similar scenarios crop up in farming communities in Mexico and Argentina. Aside from the local harm that substances such as DDT can cause, they also seep into the groundwater and spread out into the wider world, even returning to the U.S. as residue on imported produce, which the FDA poorly regulates. Former President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order prohibiting the sale of contaminated substances abroad, but Ronald Reagan revoked it, and while Senator Patrick Leahy introduced bills in the 1990s to curtail the practice, it was to no avail. Carter believes that these companies and their lobbyists have only grown more powerful since then (the value of the pesticide market has also nearly doubled since 2011). Fortunately, the filmmakers find signs of hope in the rise of organic produce, and in communities like Paro, Bhutan, which has eliminated pesticides from their farming practices. An eye-opening documentary, this is recommended. - C, P. (K. Fennessy)