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Review: 'GMO OMG' Is A Personal Journey Into The Food Industry

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by Kimber Myers
September 13, 2013 8:02 AM
4 Comments
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GMO OMG

There are moments in “GMO OMG” that feel a little bit like “Jaws” and “Psycho.” What those films did for the beach and the shower, this documentary from Jeremy Seifert could do for the grocery store for those who are easily persuaded. We left the movie stressing out over what we could eat for dinner that wouldn’t leave us riddled with tumors in 10 years. The film posits that even Whole Foods isn’t safe from the plague of the titular evil, with the documentary calling out the supermarket giant for stocking processed foods with GMOs.

GMO OMG

As “GMO OMG” explains, GMOs are genetically modified organisms: plants and animals that have been genetically engineered for certain qualities, such as being resistant to pesticides. Director Seifert gets drawn into the world of GMOs by his young son’s interest in seeds, starting his investigation into what they are and how they might affect his family and the world around them. With the bulk of seeds in America being produced by a handful of chemical companies such as Monsanto, Dow and DuPont, most of our food falls into this category. Since GMOs have really only been around for a few decades, there have been limited long-term studies around their effects on the human body and on the environment. In addition to interviews with farmers, politicians and scientists (and plenty of scenes with the cute Seifert clan), the documentary spends some time on the Seralini study, which links GMOs to tumors in rats, pointing to the possible dangers of experimenting with and patenting nature. It also looks at Monsanto's efforts to give their seeds to Haitian farmers after the 2010 earthquake and their initially surprising reaction.

Since Seifert’s efforts to contact companies like Monsanto were less than successful, “GMO OMG” is a largely one-side film. There are some supporters of GMOs in the movie, mostly represented by farmers who raise traditional crops. Those who back GMOs tout their increased crop yields, particularly around the idea that you couldn’t feed the world with just organic farming. Seifert’s interviewees counter the argument, saying that while GMO crops are more productive in early years, organic farming comes out ahead after years of use. There’s plenty of debate both within the film and around GMOs in general, and “GMO OMG” is persuasive in its anti-GMO crusade, particularly in its casting of corporations as the big bad, who threaten to sue states who proceed with labeling products that contain GMOs. It positions farming as a largely corporate enterprise, moving ever further away from the more traditional single-farmer model of decades and centuries past. Regardless of your opinion on GMOs, the most sobering statistic here may be that America has fewer farmers than prisoners.

GMO OMG

While “GMO OMG” is entertaining and informative, a few problems gave us pause in fully committing to its ideals. This is a highly personal film for Seifert who examines a global issue from the perspective of his family, a tactic that helps bring the audience closer to the story. The idea for the film seems to have grown from his oldest son’s obsession with seeds, and Seifert’s adorable kids are frequently shown throughout the movie and inject it with its humor and heart. The moment that made us cringe was one where he made his children wear hazmat suits to run through a cornfield. In a very staged scene that feels about as natural as genetically engineered seeds, he juxtaposes a once carefree activity with one theoretically fraught with toxins that needs industrial-grade protection. It’s also somewhat troubling that he’s using his kids to make a point in a way that feels manipulative for both his family and the audience.

Overall, “GMO OMG” is a beautifully shot film that benefits from both nice lensing from Rod Hassler and images of American farmland. With the cinematography and its family-centric approach, it takes what could have been a dry subject and broadens its appeal. Like any documentary, it can’t be a comprehensive study on its subject, though it certainly piqued our interest to look more deeply into the issue. [B]

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4 Comments

  • Andy | November 3, 2013 5:39 PMReply

    Seeds and plants are naturally made up of complex components that make them balanced. When you take a component out or change it, the chemistry no longer is compatible with our bodies makeup. Our bodies no longer can processes the food when it is genetically modified and this is why our bodies are becoming deseased. I am not a nutritionist or a scientist. This is my perspective from my own research peeked by my curiosity about the diseases inflicting my family and friends.

  • Dolphin | September 14, 2013 11:12 PMReply

    Great documentary. I have been researching about nutrition for the past couple years. I suffer from Fibromyalgia, a condition that has no cure and my little kids are Autistic. The only way to control our contition is to eat organic food. We know that for fact. We loved the film and wish everybody watch it and decide what to eat or not.

  • Whale | September 14, 2013 5:48 PMReply

    If Monsanto and their ilk truly want to make us believe that genetically modified foods are safe, then why don't they proudly label them as such? Why spend billions fighting state by state legislation to require such labeling? What are they afraid of? Why can't we be given a choice? We live in a "free" country, right?

  • shark | September 13, 2013 12:52 PMReply

    The film might be well made, but any documentary that advocates a plainly wrong position is trash. Just like how Waiting for Superman was worthless because it advocated for charter schools as a solution for education, this fails by dogmatically opposing genetically modified foods. These genetic modifications don't somehow make the food poisonous, and by increasing crop yield, and resistances to diseases and weather conditions, it might make staple crops affordable even to the most poor people. Genetic modification of food crops could save millions of lives, and the people freaking out about it are no better than anti-vaccine lunatics.

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