by Caitlin Zera February 1, 2016
GMO OMG is a parent’s perspective on eating, ethically and healthily, that dives into the issues surrounding GMOs with lots of heart and inquisitiveness.
Directed by Jeremy Seifert
Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes, 2013
GMO OMG follows Jeremy Seifert, a parent of three, as he criss-crosses the globe to talk to citizens and experts about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. His motivation is his family – he wants to know what he’s feeding his children. Seifert isn’t alarmist – he’s a concerned parent in search of more conclusive information, which he often struggles to find. The strongest points of the film are his interactions with citizens, some of whom have become activists and advocates for the “right to know” what’s in their food.
The film does cover the main issues related to GMOs – patenting, health, labeling, farmer contracts, seed-saving, agricultural outputs, and cross-contamination between GMO and non-GMO crops. However, the focus remains on family, and Seifert’s frustrations with not knowing which products are and aren’t GMO very much come from his desire to be an informed parent. This is incredibly relatable and turns the conversation from overly technical and scientific to understandable and critical of the way our food system has evolved. The core of the conversation is a need for knowledge, and throughout the film the conversation returns to the need to label GMOs and GMO products.
The statistics Seifert uses throughout the film are illustrated through clever animations, and he provides citations that can be referenced. GMO OMG is personal and filled with insights about the difficulties of raising a family at a time when we have both too much and too little information. It also speaks to the difficulties of navigating ethical eating in a broken food system. As his children lust after an ice cream truck passing through the neighborhood, Seifert ponders, “Who doesn’t want to buy their children ice cream on a hot summer day? Opting out of a type of food like GMOs that are everywhere means opting out of culture and tradition, and we weren’t ready to do that completely.”
Though Seifert has visited with Haitian farmers who feel their culture and tradition has been threatened by GMOs, his point hits home for many American families. Even with a growing sense that the current culture and tradition of the American food system is not one that supports transparency, health or nourishment, on a day to day basis, Seifert admits there are myriad challenges to aligning your values with your food consumption.
It’s this type of sentiment that makes GMO OMG both a good introduction to the ethical issues of GMOs and a fresh story for those who have already investigated the topic. It’s also a beautiful film with great cinematography and sound design. Footage of Siefert’s sons counting seeds from their backyard, running in the family’s home garden, and asking questions are heartwarming and much needed touches of hope for a largely discouraging subject.
The ending of the film strikes a hopeful chord as well – Seifert encourages us to buy local from farmers we know and trust but he also reminds us that “we can’t shop our way to a sustainable future.” The issues surrounding GMOs like patenting and labeling are issues we can’t completely solve at the grocery store. Seifert puts his faith in the power of the people and grassroots efforts, trusting that the world his children will live in as adults will be an informed world with a populace who feel empowered to ask questions of food suppliers and demand that legislators hold these suppliers accountable. This makes it an especially great film to watch with a group of fellow concerned citizens.
GMO OMG is screening for free at the Kirkwood Franciscan Sisters’ Winter Eco-Film series on February 2, 2016 at 7pm. Registration required: https://franciscansisters-olph.org/franciscans-for-earth/upcoming-earth-events.html