THE GRAB – Review by Liz Braun

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

In future, wars will be fought over food, not fuel, according a harrowing new documentary from Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Blackfish)

The Grab is a compelling account of how global food and water supplies are quietly being bought up by various superpowers, as food insecurity threatens every corner of the planet.

The storytelling is led by Nathan Halverson, a journalist working with the Center for Investigative Reporting. Halverson and his crack team of researchers/investigative journalists take a viewer around the world on a gobsmacking journey of discovery, along the way connecting climate change, dwindling resources, land acquisition, civil unrest and power-mongers of every stripe.

The Grab begins with a simple story about the 2013 sale of American meat behemoth Smithfield Foods to China’s Shuanghui Group.

The sale did not go unnoticed — Smithfield is the world’s largest pork producer — and various officials and politicians questioned the transaction. The sale meant that one in four American pigs is now owned by a Chinese company.

Is another country making moves to control the U.S. food supply?

Maybe so, according to The Grab. The Bank of China financed the sale, and the Bank of China is owned and operated by the Chinese government. It’s a move designed to secure food for the Chinese in the face of shrinking global supply.

In the same fashion, Saudi Arabia is running out of water and it’s estimated that the country’s groundwater will be finished in about a dozen years. Small wonder, then, that a Saudi company bought 15 square miles in a corner of Arizona where there is no restriction on water use. The Saudis have cultivated the land to grow cattle feed and use so much local water that they are actually draining the aquifer. Neighbouring farmers’ wells have gone dry, but it’s all legal.

Meanwhile, Russia is working toward world domination via agriculture and various world powers are sucking up huge swaths of land in Africa with the help of security forces and mercenaries.

As one expert notes, anywhere with a weak rule of law that doesn’t get much international attention is like the wild west right now — it’s just untrammelled land and water thievery.

And the mercenaries? The investigators discover the involvement of people such as Erik Prince — the Blackwater Erik Prince — in this scenario because somebody has to deal with any potential local uprising as these resources are brazenly stolen.

The highlight of The Grab is the film’s careful linking of recent political developments to food scarcity, including the uprisings during Arab Spring and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Filmmaker Cowperthwaite includes politicians, historians, agriculture specialists and intelligence experts/CIA types to help explain the connections between food and water and world domination, and it’s a sobering watch.

What’s missing is any kind of spotlight on North America. There’s only a single mention of developed countries and their greed and constant food waste. And the U.S. is sure to be doing the same resource grabbing as China, Russia or Saudi Arabia.

Canada, for example, is water-rich and underpopulated, and it’s likely various U.S. companies are making inroads on their neighbours’ resources.

As is China. It’s surprising that The Grab did not mention the 2014 FIPA deal with China made by Canadian Conservative Prime Minister Steven Harper; that treaty is in place until 2045 and was generally described by the country’s media as selling Canada to China. The deal was done on the quiet, as is the case with so much of the action in The Grab. Let’s hope there’s a sequel.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×

Liz Braun

Liz Braun has contributed entertainment stories in print and on radio and TV in Canada for 30 years. She served as film critic for the Toronto Sun and for the Postmedia chain of newspapers.