The starting pistol is raised, the hens jump with excitement... and they're off. Half a dozen computer-animated chickens scream down the track - some clearing hurdles, others crashing through them.
Only one is fit enough to make the finishing line, because he's from an organic farm. The others collapse by the wayside.
This is the surreal take on the evils of factory farming from one German film student, on show at Berlin's Kino International movie theatre on Wednesday night. The unlikely event was the first ever organic farming film awards, organised by the Agriculture Ministry to promote the sector.
"The image of ecological agriculture is very old fashioned at the moment. It's dusty and hippy-style," said organiser Juergen Seidler. "So the students and we try to give it a new, fresh image."
Germany's Agriculture Ministry, run by a Green Party minister, has big plans for organic farming. It aims to increase the proportion of farms producing organic goods from the current four percent to 20% by 2010.
"This goal was in part a response to the first BSE case in Germany," says Alexander Mueller, state secretary at the Agriculture Ministry. "With organic food you know exactly what you are eating."
Germany has also massively promoted consumption of organic products. The Bio-Siegel trade mark, which identifies them, has featured on billboards and TV adverts.
Special Bio-Markets selling only organic goods have benefited from the campaign, reporting steep increases in sales. Launched two years ago, there are now more than 18,000 products bearing the Bio-Siegel mark.
"Germans have the highest demand for organic products in the European Union," says Mr Mueller.
But not everyone is convinced. Dr Helmut Born, General Secretary of the German Farmers' Association, says the government's plans are not realistic.
"Markets are not dependent on a ministry. They are dependent on the facts, and the facts are very bad just now," he says.
"We have very high standards in organic production in Germany. But our farmers must compete with farmers from outside, producing under lower standards."
The films in the competition do not deal with these issues. Instead, they focus on the health aspects of eating organic food.
Some use idyllic images of country life: a farmer cradles a tiny chick in his palm, his grand-daughter with a white line on her upper lip from drinking fresh organic milk.
Others use humour. Aside from the chicken athletics, there's a story about how the classroom nerd grows up to become the school sex-bomb - riding along with her beau on a farm tractor. Organic carrot juice plays a key role here.
The films now go out to cinemas across Germany, and special events will be laid on to attract viewers. They might not take the box office by storm, but they do highlight how the government here is trying to ram home the organic message.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/e ... 119822.stm
Published: 2003/09/18 13:36:02 GMT
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