Circle of Poison

A shocking investigation into the hypocrisy of US pesticide laws

Circle of Poison When the US government bans a pesticide, deemed too harmful for the American people, you would imagine that to be the end of it. What you would not expect is it to then be exported freely aboard for profit. In recent years countless harmful pesticides have been spread around the world's less-developed nations, causing immeasurable damage. Many are then imported back into the United States on infected foodstuffs, creating a terrible cycle of poison.

"People keep dying and people keep getting richer…it is the poor people that go to work, it is all at the expense of the poor" explains Diana, a member of a Mexican farming community. In recent decades the United States has exported increasing amounts of dangerous pesticides into her community - along with countless other communities throughout the developing world - with devastating consequences for the crops and the people that farm them. "There is no security -there is no regard for the safety of the employee, there is no interest in protecting the human being" explains Paco, a pesticide consultant.

Back in the United States, powerful lobbies for the pesticide companies have ensured the continued production and export of these dangerous chemicals, and with close ties to the federal government, the industry's financial interests have been protected despite all scientific and ethical arguments. Repeated attempts to curb the exports of these chemicals have been thwarted; even President Jimmy Carter failed to tame them when in office, despite repeated attempts: "we had all the material to show that we were doing something unscrupulous, or even illegal as far as international law goes, but the manufacturers of these dangerous materials were so powerful that they obstructed what I did" he explains.

There is a growing anxiety among many in the United States that these pesticides are infecting crop yields that are then imported back into the country and being consumed in the domestic market, and the risk to the American people remains unknown. "There is a contradiction here" argues Jay Feldman, director of the coalition Beyond Pesticides, "when you look at nuclear technology, we worry that an abuse of that technology will come back and hurt the United States, and we are very careful in our exports. We need to have that attitude with pesticides".

"When I step back and think about the scope of what we've done it's been a giant, tragic experiment" explains David Weir, "to contaminate our planet is a terrible sin". Circle of Poison explores the worrying truth as American corporations exploit our planet for profit.

Laurel Official Selection - Environmental Film Festival, 2016

Laurel Official Selection - DOC NYC, 2015

Laurel Official Selection - Salem Film Festival, 2016

FULL SYNOPSIS

Please Note: This film is not available for broadcast rights in United States

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NYT: This Pesticide Is Prohibited in Britain. Why Is It Still Being Exported?

The Producers


Director - Evan Mascagni is an attorney turned filmmaker from Louisville, Kentucky.  He is currently the Policy Director of the Public Participation Project, working to strengthen First Amendment rights for filmmakers, journalists, and activists across the country.


Editor - Nick Capezzera is a traveler, filmmaker, and Korean-Adoptee. Born in Seoul, Korea and raised just outside of Boston, he became interested documentary work while photographing his travels through Central America and Europe. Since re-locating to Brooklyn in 2011 he has worked with the New York Times, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Red Bull, Conde Naste, and GQ creating short documentary content. in 2015 his first feature length documentary, Circle of Poison, premiered at the DOC NYC film festival in New York City.


Director - Shannon Post is a filmmaker and food and garden educator from Florida. She is co-founder, along with Evan and Nick, of Player Piano Productions, a company “making films that matter” based in Brooklyn, NY.

Making The Film


Evan Mascagni: I first learned about the horrendous US policy that is the subject of our film as a law student in Washington, DC. But it wasn’t until I was in Guatemala a few years later that I saw the health and environmental harm that the global pesticide industry is causing. My trip inspired me to attempt to bring national attention to this issue and highlight those individuals around the world who are resisting and fighting back.

Shannon Post: When Evan told me about the manufacturing ‘for export only’ U.S. policy on dangerous chemicals and products, I was shocked—about the policy itself, and because of the fact that I, as someone passionate about food issues, didn’t know about it. I was drawn to making a documentary with Evan on this topic because, while food and environmental films generally dive head first into complicated ethical and moral questions about the safety of pesticides, I felt that focusing on this issue of exporting known hazards could really resonate with audiences and affect change in policies and practices.

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