Contact Us e-Edition Crossroads Magazine
People continue to freak out over GMOs
by Lenore Skenazy
Sep 09, 2017 | 415 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print

It all began when a neighbor of filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy's sent a text asking whether she could borrow some organic milk. Kennedy texted back, "You can borrow some milk, but I don't have organic."

The friend politely declined, which set Kennedy to thinking. His family drank conventional milk. Did that make him a dad who didn't care about his kids' safety or the environment? That would be odd, because he was nominated for an Oscar for his film about a community garden.

It was fortuitous, then, that just as he was processing these ideas about how organic produce had become almost a religious issue, he was approached by the Institute of Food Technologists -- a group of 18,000 food scientists -- which wanted him to make a movie celebrating its 75th anniversary. He would have complete control over what the film said and showed.

Kennedy and his fellow producer, Trace Sheehan, decided to concentrate on a single issue: GMOs -- genetically modified organisms -- that is, plants created after a geneticist has taken DNA from one organism and inserted it into another to make a food easier to grow or healthier or hardier.

Like Kennedy's organic-only neighbor, many folks consider GMOs Frankenfood. But as the filmmakers began interviewing scientists, they quickly recognized a huge disconnect between the science world, which overwhelmingly believes that GMOs are safe, and the public, which does not.

To see the debate in action, the crew flew to Uganda, where the banana crop is dying because of a rotting disease. A genetically modified banana plant is being developed by public-sector scientists there, and the farmers are desperate to start growing it. In the movie, we meet a mom and her children who all survive on the banana crop grown on her small farm. When the trees die, we grimly understand, so will her kids.

The tree-saving modification has nothing to do with profit, America or big agriculture. It is simply a scientific advancement. "We've been screening our film awhile, and we ask before and after the film, 'Who has concern about the safety of GMOs?' And we see time and again, (the film) is changing minds," said Sheehan. "No one says the farmers in Africa shouldn't have the right to grow that genetically modified banana." And no one thinks it is going to hurt them or should be shunned in favor of organic bananas.

And now that audiences agree that there's at least one beneficial use of genetic modification, said Sheehan, "that's a new place to start the conversation from."

Neil deGrasse Tyson narrates the film, "Food Evolution," and having such a prominent scientist on board underscores the filmmakers' message. When people ask Kennedy whether he's really pro-GMO, he responds, "I am pro-science."

After the movie, I tried having a pro-science conversation myself. My husband and I saw the film in Manhattan. There were precisely four people in the theater. As we were leaving, two young men were going up the stairs in front of us, and I said, "Wasn't that amazing?"

"What?" they asked.

"The GMO movie."

"We didn't see that! GMOs are terrible! Monsanto! Cancer! Only organic..."

So I quickly mentioned just one fact I'd learned from the film: If we want to have enough food to feed the 30 billion people soon to inhabit the planet and we only grow organically, we'll have to chop down rainforests to turn them into farmland. "But if we grow GMO crops that need less space and less water, the rainforests are safe."

That started a conversation.

Let's hear it for more of those.

Lenore Skenazy is author of the book and blog "Free-Range Kids" and a hilarious keynote speaker at conferences, companies and schools. Run out and get her book "Has the World Gone Skenazy?"

Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet