U of M dean says ‘Troubled Waters’ film ‘vilifies agriculture’

By by Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
September 17, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — The Dean of the University of Minnesota School of Agriculture says the premiere of a film about pollution in the Mississippi River was postponed because it "vilifies agriculture."

The film, "Troubled Waters," is about the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and pollution from Minnesota that’s contributing to the problem. Its premiere was abruptly postponed by the university officials.

Dean Al Levine said the film opens with a lot of drama, and spends too much time discussing agricultural pollution before considering any other sources of water pollution.

"Agriculture is a major contributor to these issues, we know that," he said, noting the film takes a half-hour to talk about other sources of runoff, such as cities or lawn chemicals.

Levine says the film isn’t inaccurate, but it’s unbalanced. He said it should have included scientists who are trying to figure out how to feed 9 billion people by 2050.

Filmmaker Larkin McPhee says the film was balanced, and shows many things farmers and university researchers are doing to improve water quality.

"I think that the film is a very honest and fair appraisal of a very complicated subject, and I want to stress that it’s already undergone thorough review by many people at the University and elsewhere."

University officials denied rumors that they acted under pressure from agricultural interests when they postponed the premiere, saying they will appoint a scientific committee to review the film.