Title: GMO OMG

Director: Jeremy Seifert

A lot of nonfiction films of the social activist strain peddle scattershot panic or unfocused, call-to-arms rhetoric in lieu of taking the time to properly root down into a particular issue, present compelling characters or craft throughlines of a deeper and more sincere engagement. However well intentioned they might be, they fan the flames of discord, attacking those promulgating different opinions as backwards, uninformed or worse. “GMO OMG,” which explores the loss of seed diversity and the rise in the genetic manipulation of food, is thankfully not one of those films. Directed by Jeremy Seifert, this bighearted, family-centric effort has no small amount of skepticism about the dubious efforts of companies like Monsanto and others to patent the building blocks of life, and sue out of existence the farmers that would deign to oppose them — but it’s powered by a honest curiosity rather than a completely predetermined agenda.

As a husband and the father of two young boys, Seifert is worried about the health of his kids, and the potential side effects later in life of them eating genetically modified organisms (or GMOs). Most frustrating of all, though, is the inability to discern what is and isn’t genetically modified. Monsanto’s creation (and patent) of soy beans resistant to the weed killer Round-Up have gotten an outsized share of the publicity when it comes to GMOs, but the fact is that they are already almost everywhere — from fish, livestock and dairy to vegetables and especially corn, and the thousands of products that use corn syrup.

Once modified seeds are planted and ingested by other animals, it threatens any nearby organic farming as well. Combine this with the fact that using over five billion pounds of pesticide each year has already produced more than 500 varieties of bugs resistant to these toxins, from the western corn rootworm to the cotton bollworm and more, and it’s easy to feel like we’re close to a dangerous tipping point.

Seifert’s approach, though, is engaging and easygoing — firmly inquisitive without being overbearing or pushy. He embraces the doubts and uncertainty within himself, and the result is a film more carrot than stick. “Are you a religious man?” he asks one farmer sincerely, before feeling his way through a metaphor expressing the doubts he has about humankind, though the manipulation and corporate ownership of the common inheritance of all of humanity, doing something that’s never been done before. It’s a remarkable dialogue, as much for its intellectual give-and-take as its even-keeled nature.

The facts that “GMO OMG” presents — that GMOs are already present in roughly 80 percent of processed foods Stateside, but that countries like Russia, India and even China actually already label GMOs, unlike in America — are not widely known. That illustrates just how distressingly captive to the industry of Big Agriculture the United States government currently is. GMO transparency ballot measures in California (where Monsanto led $45 million in industry spending to argue that labeling foods would pass along undue costs to consumers) and other states have been met with fierce resistance; Monsanto even threatened to sue the state of Vermont unless it backed down with a similar measure. But there is already some testing that shows uncomfortable results regarding various GMOs. “GMO OMG” recognizes that minds are changed as much through the heart as a litany of facts, and in showcasing honest dialogues with his kids about his concerns Seifert manages to provoke important self-reflection.

NOTE: For more information on the movie, its issues and attendant activism, visit www.GMOFilm.com.

Technical: B

Story: B+

Overall: B

Written by: Brent Simon


By Brent Simon

A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brent Simon is a three-term president of LAFCA, a contributor to Screen International, Newsweek Japan, Magill's Cinema Annual, and many other outlets. He cannot abide a world without U2 and tacos.

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