Monsanto didn’t have the best reputation. The former agricultural and chemical company used to sue farmers for ‘stealing’ their GMO seeds. They did this even if they don’t have 100% proof that that theft was deliberate. It’s easy to get out of track while talking about Monsanto so for the most part, it’s a good thing that Jennifer Baichwal’s Into The Weeds: Dewayne “Lee Johnson” vs. Monsanto Company doesn’t fulfill its title’s promise and keeps to just one of the company’s many corrupt ways. What they’re doing doesn’t seem corrupt at first. After all, their weed killing products the Roundup and RangerPro get approvals from the EPA, classifying it as ‘not likely to be carcinogenic to humans’. But they were.
Monsanto’s actions might seem complex to some critics but is pretty simple to other critics as well as viewers. Baichwal for the most part succeeds in depicting that simplicity, even in a documentary that mostly covers depositions. These scenes might make some of our eyes gloss over. But the editing here is crisp enough to show the important parts without making it seem like the editing has a bias. Lawyers grill Monsanto underlings, showing them emails that prove that the company didn’t bother to test Roundup that they were selling. It’s also interesting to learn that it’s easy for lawyers to get access to these damning documents.
Into The Weeds isn’t just a courtroom documentary. It also gives enough screen time to archive footage of news clips that revealed more documents. Those documents proved that Monsanto allocated money in ways other than testing RangerPro. Monsanto also spent money to discredit scientists who were warning the public about the carcinogens within the company’s products. Although as much as I like the expose, I think it’s fair that it sometimes misses the human element. I like the lawyers fighting for the scientists and for the people, but I wish there was more screen time for them. I need to see the good guys before finding out whether or not they win.
Let’s keep in mind Weeds‘ full title. The amount of Johnson’s screen time is debatable but for me I wouldn’t mind seeing more of his story. The same goes for the other complainants and plaintiffs in the suit against Monsanto from both sides of the US-Canadian border. Speaking of Canada, the documentary could have made more room for Indigenous voices. Leaders from those Nations appear for two scenes. Regardless, I’m satisfied with this version of the documentary with lawyers convincing juries of the validity of the case against Monsanto. One of those lawyers is Brent Wisner, who makes for a decent deuteragonist for the documentary.