Film Review: Food Evolution

“Food Evolution” the movie looks at the controversial subject of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) from the perspective of the food science community.

 

Along with most people most of the new sites I visit, non-fiction books I read and the documentaries and videos I watch tend to affirm the views that I maintain in my belief structure. If I were to categorise myself it would be a liberal, vegan, conservationist, global warming believer. So, you can imagine the sort of media I might consume.

Anyway, I decided a while back to broaden my perspective and try to take in alternative views to my own. I went into this with an open-minded and not to be judgemental – trying simply to see where other people might be coming from and what has influenced their perspective. As you might imagine this has not always been easy to digest but you quickly learn that things are not always black and white and that the media I have traditionally relied on for my sources of information are not without their own biases that I might not wholly agree with. 

There are some topics such as climate change and plant-based diets where I have done a lot of research (not just relying on the media) and feel I have got a good grasp of the facts. But there are some areas of “controversy” where I perhaps have not spent as much time and effort to really get to grips with the details of both sides of the debate.

A topic that I must confess I am ignorant of is the subject of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). If you had asked me my views on GMOs I would have instinctively said that they are bad for the planet and bad for people. But this was based on anecdotal evidence and influenced by my media selection. So, I decided to watch the documentary “Food Evolution” narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson (a bit of hero of mine!). The film was released in 2016 and seeks to show that the resistance to GMOs is based on non-scientific evidence and that there are many benefits to GMOs (by the way we’re not just talking crops!)

There are a lot of scientists who appear in the documentary and present the case for GMOs. These scientists were offset by some people, which I can only describe as cranks, pushing against the use of GMOs. In the case of crops, the agrochemical industry (more on this later) has developed strains that are drought and disease resistant. The benefits of these types of GMO crop varieties is obvious. For the disease-resistant crops, the argument is that less pesticide is required to protect them from pestilence. 

The agrochemical giant Monsanto features prominently in the film. This is an organization that I and many others consider to be unethical and generally too large for its boots. The roots of this distrust hark back many years to its involvement in developing Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs and bovine growth hormones – an extensive list of some fairly repugnant chemicals and agents. The filmmaker does try to paint Monsanto in a new light – but it did feel that I was being pushed some propaganda (which could be down to my bias of course). Looking into this a bit more the film was funded by the Institute for Food Technologists which is partially sponsored by the food industry – which does question whether there is bias in the evidence (although the filmmaker, Kennedy, says he was not influenced in the directions he took).

Anyway, this is a well-made documentary and whatever side of the GMO fence you come from it is well worth watching. Personally, I don’t think that my mind was changed. Instead of worrying too much about disease tolerant and drought resistant GMO crops, we should be paying our attention to global warming, water conservation, organic farming, managing our top-soil, reducing the space given to crops for animal feed, improving diets etc, etc.

 

 

Anyway, this is a well-made documentary and whatever side of the GMO fence you come from it is well worth watching. Personally, I don’t think that my mind was changed. Instead of worrying too much about disease tolerant and drought resistant GMO crops, we should be paying our attention to global warming, water conservation, organic farming, managing our top-soil, reducing the space given to crops for animal feed, improving diets etc, etc.

You might find the DVD of this in your local library, or you can rent or buy it from Amazon, Apple iTunesYouTube or watch on Hulu.

 

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