September 21, 2010 – Troubled Waters at the University of Minnesota

I don’t quite know how to explain this one, but here goes. Hey, I can chime in because I have two degrees from the University of Minnesota and am greatly saddened by the events of the last few days. Here goes a quick overview. Private donors give the University of MN money for a film documenting the impact of agriculture on water quality. They hire an Emmy and Peabody award-winning film-maker whose work appears on PBS NOVA series and other respected channels. The film shows the impact of commodity agriculture on water quality. The donors think the film is great.

Two weeks before the film’s premiere on campus and statewide public TV, a University PR person pulls the plug saying it hasn’t met the University’s scientific review. Well, it turns out it does pass the review (remember, it’s not a schlock filmmaker, she’s put out accurate, interesting work for years). OK, so that doesn’t work, now the explanation is that the film shows specific sustainable farmers that sell farm products, so the university can’t release the film because they will be promoting products by companies – and these are bad mega companies – an organic milk co-op and a grassfed beef company.

News flash to U of M – Hey, you know that new football stadium, I think it’s called “TCF Bank Stadium,” I’ve got a secret to let out of the bag – shhhh, the bank sells products. And about that Cargill Building of Molecular Genomics on campus, it might surprise you, but Cargill sells BILLIONS of dollars of products. And hey, you’ve gone as far as not only naming structures after companies, but entire university programs – that Carlson School of Management for instance. And by golly, what a coincidence, the Carlson company sold 38 billion dollars worth of products and services in 2008. I expect all those names will be removed in light of the new university policy that prohibits university mention of companies in any university-related publication or film, even if they aren’t funded by the U of M!

To read more about the bruhaha, check out the Land Stewardship Project page, with links to NPR, Star-Tribune, Pioneer Press and other media outlets stories on the film.

one year ago…”Barn Update”