I just got home from Poland and I’m in that hazy, gauzy state of exhaustion from jet lag, lack of sleep, and having traveled for 19 hours straight.
I was at Transatlantyk, a film and film music festival in Poznan. One of the best components of the fest was a film series called Culinary Cinema. Each night, a food-themed movie would screen and afterwards, a chef would prepare a dinner that tied in with that theme for a small group.
I went to a screening called “GMO OMG.” The documentary looks at GMOs (genetic modified organisms) pushed by such biotech giants as Monsanto. Jeremy Seifert, the film’s writer and director, decided to explore GMOs when he realized he and his wife really had no idea how safe the food they were feeding their three small children was.
Seifert talks to both traditional and organic farmers and takes an educational, rather than accusatory, tone as he lays out the effect of Monsanto’s control on seed production and what kind of ethical dilemma that poses when a corporation decides it owns something that comes from nature and belongs to the earth. On a broader scale —and by sometimes over-exaggerating to make his point, such as when he and his sons don HazMat suits with gas masks to run through some corn fields —Seifert examines how difficult is it to get straight answers about the long-term effects of eating GMO foods (though the evidence against them grows more damning every day) and how hard it is to stay away from them, even when you are really trying to.
He also highlights research that shows that Monsanto (and other manufacturers’) seeds that have toxins in them to keep away pests and the seeds that are “Roundup Ready” (i.e.: can be sprayed with pesticide Roundup and still not die while the weeds die) are now becoming ineffective as nature has found a way to evolve and breed superweeds and superbugs resistant to the pesticides in the seeds, sort of how there are strains of bugs that are now resistant to antibiotics.
It’s a must-see film for anyone who has concerns about GMOs-- and we all should. Even if you decide the jury is still out on how harmful GMOs are, it’s important to see just how hard Monsanto is fighting in the U.S. to prevent product labeling (such as threatening to sue the state of Vermont for passing a labeling law) and pouring millions into helping defeat California’s Prop 37 that dealt with labeling, as well as a U.S. Senate bill that gave states the right to require food labeling. More than 60 countries have either banned GMOs or passed labeling laws, but not the U.S., where Monsanto has a stranglehold.
Seifert gets a bit heavy handed with his own kids, asking his six and four-year olds repeatedly if they’re sure they want to eat ice cream or other foods that have GMO ingredients. It’s a bit much at times as he presses to make his point, but it’s clear that the concern he has for his children is very real and that he is genuinely dismayed, as we all should be, at the extent to which Monsanto will go to kill labeling bills alive and their other tactics. Some would say they’re just taking care of business, but it goes far beyond that.
I got to spend some time with Siefert and his wife, who are also musicians (much of the film’s music was provided by their band, The Jubilee Singers, as well as a well-placed Mumford & Sons tune), and they both have a gentle spirit that shows no hidden agenda.
“GMO OMG” has screened at some other film festivals, but it deserves a large audience (and, quite frankly, a better piece than my jet-lagged state is allowing my to write at this moment). The movie’s site is accepting donations to help get it into more theaters.
Below is the film’s trailer.
Aug. 9: “GMO OMG”