By Ken Roseboro
Published: September 1, 2013
Category: Non-GMO Initiatives
Powerful new documentary opens in theaters nationwide this fall
After hearing about poor Haitian farmers burning donated seed by Monsanto following the devastating earthquake in 2010, Jeremy Seifert embarked on a quest to make a film about genetically modified foods.
“I wanted to make a film to say to my friends and neighbors, my family, my community, my endlessly diverse fellow Americans: Chemical companies are feeding you and your family. If they have their way, everything will be genetically modified, so they can patent and own food, controlling every aspect of it, and eliminating your choice,” Jeremy said. “Is this the kind of world you want to bestow to your children?”
Jeremy started by financing the film on his credit cards, but his vision soon attracted support. His received KickStarter funds and then backing from natural and organic food companies such as Nature’s Path Foods, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Silk, and Horizon Organic Dairy, as well as numerous individuals such as musician Dave Matthews. Elizabeth Kucinich, then director of public affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and wife of former congressman Dennis Kucinich, became the producer.
Jeremy realized his vision with GMO OMG, a powerful, yet personal and touching documentary about one father’s quest to feed his family healthy foods.
The film premiered last February at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival. Last spring it won Audience Choice Award at the Yale Environmental Film Festival and the Berkshire International Film Festival for best documentary. It will appear in theaters nationwide this fall with distribution by Submarine Deluxe whose last release was the Oscar-nominated film Chasing Ice.
GMO OMG is the first film about GMOs to get a major theatrical release.
I met Jeremy Seifert at the Seed Savers Conference in Decorah, Iowa in July 2011. He and his family attended the conference because of his son Finn’s fascination with seeds. I gave him a copy of our Organic & Non-GMO Report, and he said he wanted to interview me for the film. A few days later, Jeremy came to our office in Fairfield with two assistants. We got into his van with him driving and me in the passenger seat and drove on country roads surrounded by Iowa’s fields of corn and soybeans. Jeremy asked me questions about genetically engineered corn.
Jeremy was new to the GMO issue, but his passion, enthusiasm, and humor were infectious. I admired his commitment to the film, but wondered if he would be able to complete it—especially after he told me how he was financing it. I wished him the best.
Jeremy’s commitment paid off. GMO OMG is an excellent film that accurately describes the complexities of the GMO controversy while making it a very personal, touching, and humorous journey to find non-GMO foods.
Jeremy narrates the film as he journeys to the earthquake devastated Haiti to interview poor farmers who destroyed Monsanto’s donated seeds, to the cornfields of Iowa talking with farmers who grow GMO seeds, to a mountain lake in the Sequoia National Forest trying to escape the reach of GMOs, to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, which is preserving the world’s seed varieties, and to France to speak with a scientist who found that GM corn caused tumors in rats.
The film effectively alternates key issues of the GMO debate—domination of seed by biotech companies, health and environmental risks, GMO crop acreage, herbicide resistant superweeds, and labeling—with Jeremy’s family story and journeys.
The film adds good doses of humor to lighten a heavy topic. The film begins with funny clips of people responding to Jeremy’s asking them what GMOs are. Most people don’t know and give a wide range of humorous answers. A burly man with a megaphone says, “GMO? I don’t know what that is.” A woman asks “What the hell is that?”
Jeremy involves his children, 4-year-old Scout and 7-year-old Finn, in his quest to find non-GMO foods. Jeremy creates hilarious “GMO goggles” with spaghetti strands and tiny umbrellas that he tells the boys will help them see GMOs in the supermarket.
He pays a visit to Monsanto’s facility in Iowa hoping for an interview. Somehow the receptionist had known he was coming and told him “Jeremy you have to leave right now.”
At a McDonald’s drive-in window, Jeremy asks if they offer foods without GMOs.
His talks with Finn, who has been fascinated with seeds since he was three, are touching. While sitting in their tiny garden in Los Angeles, Finn tells his father: “If people stop buying GMOs then the stores won’t carry them and the companies that make them will just go away.”
He interviews several Iowa farmers and asks them why they grow GMOs. The farmers give very commonsense responses; one can’t help but feel empathy with the challenges farmers face. There are no judgments against them for growing GMOs.
Noted experts add their insights. Jeff Moyer and Mark “Coach” Smallwood of the Rodale Institute emphasize that—contrary to biotech industry claims—organic farming can feed the world. Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety describes the health risks of GMOs. Hans Herren, president of the Millennium Institute and World Food Prize winner, describes why GMOs are grown. “Why are we doing this is the question and the answer is clear: it’s huge money,” he says.
Ultimately the film’s message is hopeful, showing the rising consumer awareness of GMOs and demand for GMO labeling. The film comes full circle with clips of the same people interviewed at the beginning who emphatically say that GMOs should be labeled.
With its release in theaters, GMO OMG has great potential to help educate thousands and perhaps millions more people about the GMO threat and the need for a healthier and more sustainable way to produce food.
© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, September 2013