Blood for Money aka Genetic Theft (movie review)


Reviews of the Leech and the Earthworm | Pequot Times (September 2003, p. 10)

Blood for Money
By Trace A. DeMeyer (it's me)

When was the last time you gave blood for a research study?

Ever wondered if genetic research is being done on Indigenous people? Absolutely and often without their knowledge. The film "The Leech and the Earthworm" chronicles the new Columbus - a genetic scientist who wants to map your genetic identity, and will even steal to get it.

Filmed on location in New Zealand, Vanuatu, British Columbia, the US, and Johannesburg, the film explores the Indigenous view on Western science and its links with colonization, globalization and corporate "patent" profits.

Debra Harry, (No. Paiute), Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism is the visionary, the messenger and the producer of the film.  Harry partnered with London-based directors Max Pugh and Mark Silver of Yeast Directions to make this shocking and powerful 68 minute film.

One interview that stands out is with Larry Baird, leader of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribe of Vancouver Island, Canada, who was outraged to find out that DNA samples taken from over 800 tribal members almost 20 years ago for arthritis research were taken to Oxford and used for other purposes without their consent.

Harry explained her reason for making the film, "We are able to share the thoughtful analysis of Indigenous leaders from around the world. The narratives are not only articulate critiques on genetic engineering, but the speakers also advocate for self-determination, the protection of traditional knowledge, and for the continuation of indigenous life ways and worldviews."

The film uses effective collage, musical scoring, archive footage and graphics to creatively trace more than 100 years of alarming abuse and wisely argues for an alternative worldview based on collaboration and Indigenous wisdoms.

Some interviews on film include:

Angeline Greensill, Maori attorney from Hamilton, Aotearoa (NZ), and her legal efforts to block human-cow transgenic field trials being conducted by Ag Research, and to mobilize anti-GE activism among Maori communities throughout NZ.

Chief Viraleo of the Turaga Nation of Pentacoste Island,Vanuatu, and his 20 years of successful efforts to revitalize the traditional ways of life in the remote villages ofPentacoste Island, in order to insure his people are healthy and their island is used in a sustainable manner. His communities have chosen to reject Western medicine and other influences of Western society.

Vickie Tauli-Corpuz, of the Igarot Nation, and Executive Director of the Tebtebba Foundation based in the Phillipines, interviewed on location in Johannesburg during the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development on the new global trade agreements and their impact on indigenous peoples.

The film has already been screened for global audiences in London,Slovenia, in Nadi and Suva, Fiji, five venues in Aotearoa (New Zealand), and at Cornell University,San Francisco and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in the US. It was also shown at the Native American Journalists Association conference in Green Bay in June 2003 (when I saw it). 

The filmmakers are now seeking distributors to make the film available to a worldwide audience, and perhaps for television broadcast. They hope to produce a DVD version with accompanying study guide, and eventually make the film available in different languages. The film will be submitted to various film festivals.

Genetic theft is not going to go away anytime soon. Indigenous peoples are still vulnerable to this new exploitation without information.

This film will open your eyes. Do your best to go see it.


Indigenous cultural property of all forms, tangible and intangible, oral and written, ancient and contemporary, is under constant threat from exploitation, theft, misrepresentation, misuse, and commodification. Current domestic law, including federal Indian law, does not sufficiently protect cultural property. 

PDF excerpt:

Many of the problems that tribes are facing are exemplified in a recent case of genetic research undertaken on the Havasupai Tribe, based in northern Arizona. For several years now, the Havasupai Tribe has been embroiled in the aftermath of unauthorized genetic research performed under the guise of diabetes research.[FN7] The Havasupai Tribe says that their lives were forever changed when their “sacred blood” was taken from them, by researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, for what ended up being unconsented research on schizo-phrenia, inbreeding, and to support the “Bering Strait Theory” of ancient-human migration...

OH NOW WHAT?  Look at the Mormons too: HERE  (thanks Pete for this story about ancestral THEFT!)


*** I say WTF (what the f*ck) when it comes to genetic research... LT


I shudder to think what karma awaits...
LT said…
KC, yes... there were stories long ago about researchers wishing to create a hybrid Native American with an animal... horror, right?

And I meant to tell you I printed out 13 pages of your last post - it
is f*cking brilliant

click on older posts (it's a time machine)

click on older posts (it's a time machine)
be brave and go way back

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