By Eli Brunsman
Good documentaries make me want to tell everyone, “Hey! Please check this out!” I literally can’t shut up after watching a film that makes me want to go out and change the world. As soon as I saw Food Evolution at Heartland, I texted several people about it. Even if I already knew that this Neil DeGrasse Tyson-narrated film would probably be incredibly well-researched and entertaining, I was excited nonetheless.
The film begins by showing Hawaiian citizens debating whether or not to ban GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Any pro-GMO people are severely outnumbered at this meeting, and their opinions are drowned out by video calls with people like Jeffrey Smith, a famous anti-GMO activist. Food Evolution takes an entirely scientific approach as it points out the fear-mongering and inconsistencies in the anti-GMO movement. The film obviously takes a side in this controversial debate, but it does so in a respectful manner. Each side gets equal opportunities to speak. This creates an entertaining back-and-forth between scientists and activists. I was surprised by how light-hearted and funny the film is, and the audience in the theater actually laughed several times.
One of my favorite things about Food Evolution was the inside look at how GMOs are helping scientists create new, resistant forms of plants. When Hawaii’s papayas were dying out due to a ringspot outbreak, farmers were losing jobs, and Hawaii was losing money. There was nothing to turn to until a GMO breakthrough saved the species. The new form of fruit, rainbow papaya, was able to thrive due to genetic modification, and tons of jobs were saved. The film moves on to show that Africa is going through a similar issue. A deadly bacterial disease called Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) is threatening their source of food, but most of Africa is anti-GMO. Although scientists have successfully modified bananas to ward off BXW, it is predicted to take up to three years to pass a law allowing the fruit to be planted. This made me feel super passionate about this issue because bananas are many families’ main source of food.
Food Evolution makes it clear how easy it is to let fear and outrage outshine scientific fact. The film features people, such as Moms Across America founder Zen Honeycutt, who use anti-GMO fear-mongering to sell organic food to thousands of followers. The film made me wonder if anti-GMO rhetoric is just another method for making profit. Seeing scientist after scientist, including Bill Nye, claim that GMOs are not only safe for consumption, but also environmentally friendly, made me take their side almost immediately. I’ll end with Food Evolution’s tagline: “Science is hard. Outrage is easy.” As this film teaches us, we should all pay attention the science in this case.