The Genesis of Food Evolution: Film Review and Analysis

posted in: Science | 21

On June 23, the film Food Evolution comes out in theaters, and is sure to make a splash in the debate over genetically engineered crops. The film is narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and produced by Academy Award®-nominated director Scott Hamilton Kennedy, and premiered at the DOC NYC film festival last November. I remember the night well because I trekked across the country to see it for the first time, meeting the filmmakers and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson! I didn’t want to write about my impressions of Food Evolution at the time because I wanted to see it again and let it sink in. I’ve long been interested in the portrayal of science in media, particularly in my chosen field, and so I searched for what would be a good angle to approach the film. At the DOC NYC premiere, I learned about the genesis of the Food Evolution film, direct from the president of the Institute of Food Technologists which funded the film, and after seeing the film again at UC Davis I followed up with Scott Hamilton Kennedy and IFT for more information. The story of how this film came together is as amazing as the film itself.

I found the film to be powerful, meaningful, and educational, and adds an indispensable human element to a debate fraught with abstraction and distraction. Food Evolution documented real events and shifts in attitude as they happened, surprising even myself, and entertains with genuine humor that will help you pick your jaw up off of the floor. This is the first real documentary on genetically engineered crops, and you have only to watch the trailer to know that this film is worth seeing, except if you have something to lose by changing your mind. In which case you should see it anyway.

The Genesis of Food Evolution

Documentary films are a way to record – to document – issues and events as they unfold and present them for the world to see, understand, and think about. The documentary style is familiar enough in our culture as a signal for presenting truth that it is imitated for comedic effect in shows like The Office, and in films like, well, just about every previous “documentary” film that has covered the topic of GMOs. Advocacy pieces adopting the documentary style include The Future of Food and the brazenly industry-funded and advertised GMO OMG which started with the filmmaker saying it was “time to take back our food”, neither of which were open-minded nor accurate on issues of science and law.

Outside the theater at the DOC NYC film festival. Credit KJHvM

In contrast, Food Evolution was not funded by the biotech industry and wasn’t even going to be about genetically engineered crops –  not at first. While standing around after seeing the film in New York, I was talking casually to a man standing next to me who identified himself as John Coupland, the president of IFT. Naturally, I asked how this whole project got started. He explained that in mid-2013, IFT was planning what they would do for their 75th anniversary the following year. They decided that they wanted to do a documentary about the food challenges of feeding people in 2050 and what role various food technologies might play in feeding the 9 billion people that are expected to live on this planet just 36 years down the road (now 33). They contacted a variety of accomplished film producers asking for proposals for films, and they eventually decided on Scott Hamilton Kennedy and Trace Sheehan – who had worked together before.

In an interview with me last week, Scott Hamilton Kennedy said “It is very important for people to know that there were other very important documentarians that IFT was interviewing, and their only caveat was Be inspired by the challenges of food in 2050, how are we going to safely and sustainably feed the growing population? That was the big umbrella.”

The filmmakers actually had somewhat of an uphill battle in convincing IFT to do a film on GMOs. Kennedy said they had considered other topics like food waste before settling on this subject. “We researched so many different subjects, and the GMO story was just waving its hands. It is about science, food, sustainability, and corporations, and greed, and trust – and the story didn’t seem to be being told correctly. Why didn’t I know about the GMO papaya in Hawaii? Why was every scientific organization that has helped people like myself with information about climate change also saying that GMOs are safe for human health and the environment? Why is this not showing up in my social media feed?”

On the IFT side, he said, they were reluctant to take on the topic of genetic engineering. “At first, IFT didn’t want to make the GMO movie, because they saw what a hot-button, terrifying lose-lose subject. Look at how Amy Harmon, Neil DeGrasse Tyson have been treated by the antis. Was it worth taking on this controversial issue?” Initially, they viewed it as an “ag science” topic and that it wasn’t their fight. Kennedy continued, “Ag science is from seed to farmer’s gate, and food science is from farmer’s gate to being eaten. They didn’t even ask for food science to be in it, and they let us go and make that movie. It’s as if we were funded by DC comics, and our film starred Marvel comics characters.” In their article, On the Origin of Food Evolution, the filmmakers state that “neither the motivation nor the funding for this film would come from any grants or from any particular company or industry group, but solely from the scientific society itself on behalf of its diverse membership.”

Both parties didn’t know what to expect, but they made an agreement based on mutual respect. “At first, I thought they were just looking to see what “the other side” thought. It was through several conversations and several meetings, I saw how smart, humble, and open they were about making a real documentary. I said, This conversation can come to a very quick close if you don’t let me have the final cut. They understood that that had to happen. They respect the scientific method – you can’t ask for promised results, and I can’t promise results. I had to be an independent journalist. It was a miracle the way this film got made.”

IFT tells their story

I contacted IFT to get more information, but they said they were very busy preparing for several large events and were unable to grant the time, but they did release a statement that expands on this story.

“IFT funded the documentary Food Evolution to inspire discussion and show the critical role science and innovation play in building a safe, nutritious and sustainable food supply for everyone. This film is intended to contribute to a rational conversation about science, facts and food.

IFT wanted to fund a documentary dealing broadly with the challenge of feeding an estimated global population of 9 billion people in 2050.   We approached several high-quality film makers, including Scott Hamilton Kennedy.   While we funded the film, it represents the vision, full creative control and final cut that Kennedy and his partner on this project, Trace Sheehan, have maintained throughout the project. We worked with Scott Hamilton Kennedy because he is known for his skill and integrity. We knew he would come at this project from a completely fresh, objective vantage point.

Food Evolution focuses on the GMO debate because the director found it to be emblematic of the public misunderstanding about the science of food and food sustainability. We believe Scott’s film is thought provoking, fair-minded, and an important contribution to gaining a better understanding of the critical role sound science plays in the global food system.

IFT is a non-profit scientific association of 17,000 scientists from 95 countries representing multiple disciplines,  innumerable perspectives and shared commitment to science.   We are committed to a world where science and innovation are universally accepted as essential to a safe, nutritious, and sustainable food supply for everyone, and we are proud to have funded this important film and hope that it will encourage informed discussions about sounds science.”

Revelations

GMOs in the audience! Credit: KJHvM

I asked Scott Hamilton Kennedy how his perspective had changed over the course of the film. He said, “In the beginning, I was skeptical, for sure, just from the name GMO, sounds horrible. There’s this company Monsanto that works in pesticides, but there’s a little bit of smoke there, but it never felt in balance with the horrible things being written about it from the anti- side. I went from mildly skeptical to pro-science. If these insane accusations are true, would I really be reading about it in a meme on social media, or would I see a Pulitzer prize journalist investigating it?”

“The most surprising part was finding out that there’s also an industry behind a lot of the anti-GMO vitriol. I smelled it a little but I had no idea how much some in the organic foods, wellness, and supplements industries had used fear of GMOs to sell their products. I just didn’t realize the cynicism that went with it.” But when he was out there filming and interviewing, the biggest surprise to him was how intelligent people who were against genetically engineered crops couldn’t agree on the interpretation of the same data. “Confirmation bias is a bitch!” He said.

Finally, I was curious how they decided to call the film Food Evolution. “The title was inspired by Darwin, and people associate survival of the fittest with ruthlessness, but sometimes we leave out the moral side of Darwin. He struggled with his relationship with God, and there is a morality angle to survival of the fittest. Do I crush my neighbor or do I help my neighbor? Our relationship with food is inherently tied to evolution.”

An ear to the film

I first heard inklings of the film project in February, 2014. I was contacted by Trace Sheehan because of some analyses that I published about the bills being considered in Hawaii to ban GMOs, which eventually became a subject of the film. From time to time I had been contacted by them for more information – like my thoughts on a piece of news or a recent study, and over time I observed the shift in opinion that Kennedy described. I witnessed the beginnings of the exploration, saw what they were curious about, and how they reached out to dozens of experts, thought leaders, and people active on both the pro- and anti-GMO sides. I feel fortunate to have been one of the many independent scientists who freely provided some of their time to answer their questions. When they got wind of the fact that I co-founded the March Against Myths in 2015 and that we were counter-protesting anti-GMO activists in the name of justice, with little warning they hired a local camera crew to capture the event and some of the surprising interactions, some of which made it into the film.

Knowing all of this, it still didn’t prepare me for what to expect in the film. Public updates taken into account, the filmmakers kept their cards close to their chests, leaving many people wondering how it would eventually turn out. Was the science accurate? Did they miss something? How nuanced was the take on it? Myself and other colleagues who had heard about or contributed to the film had heard very little, but I knew I should try to see it when it came out. Fortunately, the March Against Myths got a huge boost from a recent T-shirt sale, and I was able to make the trip out to New York City for the premiere.

Seeing Food Evolution

It was a really fun experience. My wife and I traveled to New York, and met up with Kavin Senapathy to attend the premiere on November 12 last year. We watched the film and got to meet Neil deGrasse Tyson – but I’ll tell you about that interaction at the end.

Excitement! Film poster! Frank N. Foode! Chili vest! Credit: KJHvM

Food Evolution is good. It takes the abstract and remote topic of genetic engineering, and critically thinking about food systems and brings it down to Earth to show how this impacts and affects people. It takes the viewer on a trip around the world to show how the words and actions of people whose hearts are in the right place but whose facts are wrong can have devastating impacts on people on the other side of the planet. The film then invites the viewer to dig deep within themselves to examine how we all make decisions. When was the last time you changed your mind?

The film was beautiful. Plant biologists should be especially pleased to see sweeping shots of space-planted nurseries of diverse varieties viewed from the sky, and appropriate detail paid to getting the science right, aided by clever graphics. This film is not committing the mistake of beating you over the head with facts, but concentrates on the people involved and how these facts affect their lives. You can tell that they really went on a journey themselves, digging up details and issues that I did not know much about myself. And they captured critical events such as the Intelligence Squared debate on genetically engineered foods – a monumental bellwether that I did not fully appreciate at the time. What happened in the halls outside the debate will echo through time. They were there to see it happen, and we are lucky to have had a window into it.

The biggest flaw I see in the film is that it is dense and at times hard to remember all of the threads going on, but that is not without reason. The range of issues and topics that connect to genetic engineering, agriculture, and food is immense, and those who have steeped in the public debate surrounding this technology will find many familiar arguments found in the film. It is simply not possible to address every question as some Facebook and Twitter threads purportedly attempt to do, and many previous films failed utterly to do the topical breadth justice while keeping a good flow with the narrative. One of the filmmakers’ techniques that I appreciated was how repetition was used to examine previous statements that flew past the viewer’s heads the first time around, but on closer examination revealed new and important information. So I could tell that they paid attention to helping the audience understand what was going on – not simply flinging facts and claims at them like other people have done. It is not so much a flaw as it is the great challenge and they met that challenge well.

There were many Easter eggs throughout the film that were also easily missed, and the film bears a second, and third viewing to take in and appreciate it all. It could have used more of the tempered yet critical comments that the likes of Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle could provide, but the film was already very full as it was, and it rightly and artfully focused instead on the people who are primarily and actively part of the GMO debate.

Food Evolution deals with big issues, from science to ethics, psychology and culture, profit-seeking and conflicts of interest. There are complex issues involved in this field, and there are people who attempt to turn it into a black-and-white issue. It has been over seven months since the premiere at DOC NYC, and at the time of writing only positive reviews have surfaced. I predict that the first negative reviews will be penned by people who stand to lose by having people open or change their minds on genetically engineered foods. It will most likely be written by someone with a direct or indirect financial interest in the sales of competing products that have used fear to increase sales. They will inevitably tie the film to nefarious conspiracy theories that will reveal more about how they see the world than how the world really is.

Myself, my wife Ariela, and Kavin – none of us knew precisely what to expect, so when I saw my own appearance in the film, my nerves turned to laughter and saw that everyone else was laughing with me. With Kavin, too! For years we have been trying to communicate with people who disagree with us, and the film showed our frustration and to my surprise the audience around me felt it too. Will the film change people’s minds? That’s an intriguing hypothesis. Will it open people’s minds? I’ve seen some anecdotal evidence of that. Should you go see it and make up your own mind? The science is in: Absolutely!

I ♥ NGT

Talking science with NGT and taking photos. Credit: KJHvM

Oh yes, Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’ve been a big fan of him ever since seeing videos of him speak at the Beyond Belief conference in 2006. His talk after the film was awesome, engaging, and Scott Hamilton Kennedy had to rescue the microphone from his now-famous “mic drop” move. When asked, what can we do about scientific literacy in this country, Dr. Tyson broke down on his knees saying “I’m trying!! I’m trying! What more do you want me to do? I did Cosmos!” He’s only one scientist communicator, and can only do so much. But, he has done so much!

When I came out of the film, there he was taking photos on the sidewalk. I walked right up to him and introduced myself, and he took a keen interest in my outfit. I was wearing a chili pepper-decorated vest of my own making, paired with a periodic table tie. He grabbed the tie and yanked it out – I thought to either look up the atomic number for Boron, or to strangle the bold moron in front of him. Instead, while holding the tie he asked what my favorite element was? As a biologist, I said that it would just have to be carbon, because it makes all of this possible. He said that Jon Stewart shared the same favorite, and was satisfied by my answer. I presented him with a couple gifts: An I ♥ GMO T-shirt and some plant plushies to take home, and we posed for some more pictures as I stuffed my tie back in. Later that evening he saw me giving the same T-shirt to one of the filmmakers and wanted to make sure I didn’t grab and re-gift his. “That’s not mine, is it? I put mine over there!” I made sure he got his shirt. And I might have slipped him a genetically engineered potato or two.

Kavin and Karl giving Neil deGrasse Tyson some plushies and a shirt! Credit: KJHvM
Follow Karl Haro von Mogel:

Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.

  • mem_somerville

    Wow, that’s a fabulous perspective on this! I didn’t know how the whole thing had developed.

    But yeah–it is a good film. Good–as in lovely, funny, touching, and smart. I am kind of astonished that someone finally made a decent movie on this topic.

    And at the recent viewing I saw, I did see more than the first one at the premiere. And some other things have changed since, too. This time, the clips of the antis always appearing on RT take on a much different tone in the nonsense-sphere than before, now that we know more about Russian influence on our current state of misinformation.

    I hope people will see it. Even the hate-watchers.

    • You are right about RT then vs now. While some have been throwing around the RT issue irresponsibly as some proof of a hidden link, I think a far more parsimonious explanation is that RT desires to erode confidence in the US government, and these individuals are communicating low confidence in the government on this topic and want a platform. So both of them help each other out in that way!

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        Good review. I hope to see this. But know of no showings in Gainesville. Another point I noticed was you trying to scare and intimidate folks with that vest. Good grief. Where did you search to come up with that?

  • Kevin Folta

    Nicely done Karl.

    • I am

      Great job shilling Karl!

      Thanks Kevin

      =3

  • I am

    “If these insane accusations are true, would I really be reading about it in a meme on social media, or would I see a Pulitzer prize journalist investigating it?”

    Uh.. there is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist investigating it. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/14/business/monsanto-roundup-safety-lawsuit.html?_r=0 “Mr Hakim was one of the lead reporters on a team that won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize…”

    • Very different subject. Scott Kennedy was talking about health claims, whereas Hakim was writing about funding. Since your other comment called me a shill, I think we won’t expect much from you here.

      • I am

        Since you’re framing reports of clear evidence of collusion between Monsanto and the government as insane accusations, I think it’s pretty obvious you are indeed a shill.

        “He said, “In the beginning, I was skeptical, for sure, just from the name GMO, sounds horrible.”

        You people are caricatures of technophobes. I, along with most people who don’t want weedkillers in our food, don’t think “GMO” is some spooky word. I’m well aware that genetic modification is a powerful technology that can be used for good. But modifying crops to be resistant to pesticide (a process which hasn’t even increased yields) so that you can sell the crops in massive quantities, sell the pesticide in massive quantities, monopolize the agricultural market, and silence the health risks of your products in collusion with the government doesn’t make you pro-science. It makes you antisocial.

  • Lisa Makarchuk

    To me, this movie is an example of how money and “science” can combine to influence the public with regard to commercial products and corporate public relations in the form of entertainment.

    Even people who don’t understand science support science. As we become a more agnostic society, people find new gods. One of them is “science”. And for people who respect and even worship science, it hardly matters whether they understand any of it – they just want to advocate for anything that bespeaks “new technology”.

    But saving the world (as Monsanto et al claim they want to do) is hard and dirty work. There’s no techno-fix. And using memes and trite platitudes to convince the public that anything GMO is beneficial because: “science” is not only NOT science, but it’s deceptive.

    Let’s salvage our technology for the common good. If we can’t learn from the profiteering of the past, we’ll never get where we want to be..

    GMOs aren’t the answer to sustaining agriculture in climate change, feeding the world, or preventing disease. Currently they are products-for-profit that support an entire field of career scientists who apparently can’t see the forest for the trees and don’t recognize their own vested interests in this industry. Also, they’re rarely renaissance people who can comprehensively comment on all the facets of this technology and how it affects us all in every way. They think narrowly and always in line with the bottom line. They are also inadvertent pesticide advocates.

    For the last 30 years we’ve seen a shift to privatization. This hurts our science imo. This movie is a perfect example. People are actually paying to watch a big sophisticated commercial, one that will make them feel good about new products the industry wants to commercialize, and which have little or no safety testing.

    Please consider the following independent review:

    https://foodfirst.org/food-evolution-propaganda-for-public-support-of-gmos/

    • Considering you obviously have not seen the film, it is worth noting that the authors of the “review” you posted had not either. The original version of their “response” to the film stated that many of the authors had not seen the film, and their primary author had not either. It was a pre-criticism, akin to slamming a book without opening the dust jacket. Only once one of them had seen the film did they post it online, after taking out the line saying they had not seen it. This is a shameful, transparent act to poison the well. Instead, read this response by Alison Van Eenennaam:
      http://biobeef.faculty.ucdavis.edu/2017/07/07/false-and-misleading/

      Much of what you have said in your more lengthy comment is false, misleading, and pitiable ad-hominem arguments:

      1. GMOs are not “the answer” – Neither is any discrete technology or practice. All tools will contribute to “the answer.”

      2. Scientists can’t see the forest for the trees – ad-hominem, and false. Scientists do consider the wide-reaching implications of their work, and as you know, we’ve spent considerable effort here to do that and encourage others to do so.

      3. “Science” is just another “god” – This is silly, and while I realize this is a sentiment you have expressed here before, it is a vacuous claim. You mistake enthusiasm and optimism for worship.

      4. Scientists only think about profit – That’s why, of course, we spend a decade in school after high school, only to get into 60-hour-a-week postdocs followed by 80-hour-a-week faculty positions that pay well below other fields of equivalent training. Scientists are most often motivated by the pursuit of knowledge and improving the lives of others.

      5. Commercial for products, salvage our technology – the film spends much of its time talking about non-profit-seeking applications of the technology and using them for the benefit of people who you get to meet in the film. If you believe that this is what we should do then you’re criticizing the wrong film.

      6. “Sophisticated” – Indeed it is sophisticated, but not in the way you think. This is a back-handed compliment showing that you assume that it will be impactful and moving and you are afraid that people will see it and change your minds to a position different from yours. You assume that it is this powerful and moving because of some sort of clever rhetorical trick that only money can buy, when in fact there’s no trick at all but an honest exploration of the topic and following the stories of several people. Watch the film, then tell us what you think. What are you afraid of, Lisa? Until then, I will consider this word as your review.

      • Lisa Makarchuk

        I’m sorry if my comment was a personal affront to you in any way. You seem to be completely mis-reading it. You haven’t really responded to what I’ve said, so how can I respond to you in turn?

        But with respect, I will instead reply to your list.

        1. GMOs aren’t the answer to feeding the world. And I didn’t say that any one discrete technology IS the answer. No, not ALL tools will contribute. As of yet we don’t have a GMO crop that will effectively contribute to solving world hunger or save any one crop in the face of climate change – and those that claim to are poor comparisons to traditionally-developed counterparts, especially when grown with eco-agronomic practices. I suppose it’s possible it could happen. But at this point in time it’s highly unlikely based on the development model.

        2. The scientists I’m talking about are those like Alison Van Eenennaam, whom you reference and who’s featured in the movie. They’re scientists whose careers are wedded to the success of Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, etc. – the chemical industry. And as more and more public academic institutions become more and more dependent on $ from those industries to keep their science and ag departments going, we’re going to see increased skewing of the science.

        3. I don’t believe I’ve ever shared my thoughts on science and its ignorant supporters before. Correct me if I’m wrong. Enthusiasm and optimism for science you don’t understand is worship. If you want to change that in order to have intelligent supporters – then start educating them on the science, not the industry rhetoric. And then show you can give critical analysis, not just promotion of the applications. For the scientists who promote GMOs, there’s no interest in having an educated public. The interest is in having a public that supports the biotech industry’s agenda.

        4. Again, I wasn’t talking about all scientists. I was talking about a particular group of scientists. Is this argument about whether or not you personally are helping to improve the lives of others? Look, I don’t think I’m doing some outstanding job of improving the lives of others. Most people aren’t. They’re just trying to make a living and help their families and communities. If you’ve got some altruistic goal of helping the human race, then I humbly suggest you re-evaluate your means of achieving it. I just see you promoting certain high-tech products by telling the public that they’re safe and can help feed the world, deal with climate change, fight plant disease, increase yield, etc. Fundamentally, I disagree with what you’re putting forth.

        5. Whether or not those non-profit applications are of any real benefit to average people as opposed to those who, again, benefit from their relationships to the industry is debatable. 99%+ applications in use are for-profit pesticide-resistant or pesticide-producing commodity crops, And the consideration of alternatives, as mentioned by Altieri, and whether or not those alternatives would BETTER benefit those people, is absent. Also, it’s often the case that a little research into non-profit development reveals ties to profit.

        6. I have to keep in mind that there’s a possibility that you really don’t understand what I’m saying, and that you yourself don’t see the forest for the trees. But, you’re more intelligent than me, so I am left to wonder. If you are able to see the critical failings of GENERA as an analytical tool, then you are purposefully working to confusticate the public (and many of your fellow scientists) when it comes to understanding the science on GMOs. If you are UNABLE to see GENERA’s critical failings, then I owe you an apology – because everything I’m saying to you is probably just coming across as an insult.

        “What are you afraid of, Lisa?”

        LOL

        I’m afraid of people like you having more power to influence the ignorant public towards unscientific thinking and uncritical support for an industry that has, overall, in the balance, done more harm than good. And yes, that’s an opinion, and please note I haven’t said it’s done NO good. But, why should citizens (like those in Hawaii, for instance) get poisoned even more extensively than they already have? Why do we beat a dead horse instead of figuring out a way to help it heal so it can serve us all and enjoy its life? LOL. Forgive my awkward analogy.

        Good luck to you Karl.

        • Lisa, I have given no indication of personal affront. While you did make sweeping claims about an entire category of people, I simply gave our efforts as examples that demonstrate that your claims about scientists were wrong.

          Very quickly:
          1. GMOs are already contributing to some of these these goals, directly and indirectly, so saying that they will not do this in the future is disconfirmed by the past.
          2. You appear to not know anything about Alison Van Eenennaam.
          3. You have made similar comments in response to enthusiasm expressed by others about one of our projects.
          4. “an entire field of career scientists who apparently can’t see the forest for the trees” It is quite clear what you meant.
          5. It helps if you are to try debating those non-profit applications that you address them specifically from a position of knowledge and not marginalize them or the desires of people who need them. By maligning the film without seeing it, you are doing just that.
          6. The creation of simple metrics that allow different study designs to be analyzed as a group is a common practice in science, and we employ it to help the science become more accessible and discover-able for the public. Every method of analysis has its drawbacks, as whenever you simply and summarize you lose some information. These metrics are not a substitute to understanding all the details, but are an entry point, and it has been quite useful for many people despite the fact that you disagree with our conclusions based on it.

          My goal has always been to influence the public toward a more scientific approach to approaching problems. That goal has also been augmented by the realization that misinformation leads to injustice, and such opposing such injustice is a moral imperative. The claims that people are being poisoned in Hawaii are among such myths, and I have personally met people who have been harmed by such politically-based and non-science-based claims.
          https://www.biofortified.org/2014/03/gmo-papayas-are-about-people/
          Continuing to make evidence-free claims for political purposes leads to injustice and harm.

          • Lisa Makarchuk

            There’s a pesticide problem on Kauai.

            The fact that committed GMO advocates are de facto pesticide apologists is another chink in the armor of biotech public relations.

            Regarding GENERA, if you have an independent expert whom you trust and respect whom you might request to look at it they could perhaps better explain the problem. You’ve got layers of subjectivity covering these papers, and you’re using your “metrics” to then extract that subjectivity and turn it into graphs and charts that, as a result, have no relationship to the literature. I tried to dissect one example in your forum, but I doubt I was able to make it clear. With your metrics a paper that compares numbers of mutations between various plants ends up making a claim about comparative safety.

          • Lisa Makarchuk

            I don’t understand how the papaya grower and the pesticide problem are related. Except – the papaya being GE, and the pesticides are a problem at the GMO test sites. But those are two different things. How does fighting the pesticide problem cause an injustice for the papaya grower?
            When we start talking about lofty things like justice, I guess we have to be more specific. But I see now it’s my fault because I wasn’t clear in my comment above. Sorry.

          • Lisa Makarchuk

            “You have made similar comments in response to enthusiasm expressed by others about one of our projects.”

            The corn experiment? Here’s the thing about that. I think it’s a perfect example of how you have to be careful in how you present education to children.

            For example: if one child is picking on another child, and an adult grabs the tormentor and spanks her – the child is meant to learn: don’t pick on others. But what the child actually learns is: if you have more power you can impose your will on others.

            So, with the corn, the experiment was supposed to teach how to “do science” But the unwitting lesson is: GMO and non-GMO corn are the same (because they both get eaten by the squirrel)

            A better science lesson would have been to teach that two things that appear to be the same are not. Such as: when bug eats non-GMO corn it lives, but when bug eats GMO corn it dies.

            In your corn experiment, you’ve got to educate the kids that the corn is actually different but looks the same and gets eaten the same. Much more interesting to see something that looks the same actually have a very different effect on a bug.

            So, unwitting lessons are: GMOs are safe to eat (your experiment) or GMOs aren’t safe to eat (bug dies) depending on the age of the child, you may or may not be able to overcome these unwitting lessons.

            That’s why I didn’t like the corn experiment. It just seemed like another example of product promotion over the real science

  • Lisa Makarchuk

    Notable also: ASCH is shown as one of the “scientific organizations” that supports GMOs. It’s a well-documented industry group that receives $ from Monsanto and others. And worth noting for purely scientific reasons: There’s NOTHING you can say about “GMOs” as if they were one homogeneous thing. Making a movie to promote GMOs is as stupid as making a movie to denigrate GMOs. They are not one single thing.

    • Food Evolution was not created to “promote GMOs.” Please show me where you called the many movies that were obviously created to denigrate GMOs (GMO OMG for instance) “stupid” in the manner you have done here.

      • Lisa Makarchuk

        Link me to any place you’d like me to post such a comment and I will do it.

        I haven’t watched any anti-GMO films myself.

        That’s a further problem with this anti- vs pro- GMO war. The science is on the pro- side, but it’s twisted and spun. The righteousness is on the anti- side, but they are ignorant. Both sides miss the mark: a well-informed public and publicly-controlled application of the science.

        I can’t support ignorant activism any more than I can support educated propaganda.

        These are the problems that “science communicators” face: they want public support for their “communications” (formerly known as public relations), but that can only be had if it can sway an ignorant public, while all the while preaching “science” to people it doesn’t really want to have understand the science!

        What tangled webs we weave….

        Let us boldly go where no human has gone before: a scientifically-literate public that can make truly informed decisions on applied technologies, and where we all live in a society that well separates money from the applications that affect public health – funding public institutions directly to solve our most pressing problems.

        • There is righteousness on the side of enabling access to a technology that will help people in need, and injustice committed by those who promote myths to prevent this from happening. If you watch the movie you will see it.

          • Lisa Makarchuk

            I would say it’s a myth that anyone’s preventing anything from happening. We have a few meager regulations still in place, but I’m sure they’ll be gone soon.