Monday, March 28, 2011

Movie Review - The Future of Food

Genetic Modification: (definition) any alteration of genetic material, as in agriculture, to make them capable of producing new substances or performing new functions; also called genetic engineering, genetic manipulation, gene splicing, gene technology , recombinant DNA technology

Before seeing the movie, I had heard here and there about genetically modified (GM) crops and animals. I knew that I wanted to avoid them and that the long term effects of eating GM products were still unknown, but really didn't have solid reasons for "preaching" against them. Enter our feature film: The Future of Food.

The movie opens with some facts that may surprise or concern you - like how the US used to grow 7,000 different kinds of apples and now we are down to a small handful of varieties (usually shipped in from China) ...or how the giant corporation, Monsanto, has been making GM corn with it's own built-in pesticide.

Okay, that makes me a little uncomfortable, but nothing to get too upset about.  But after 128 minutes of easy to follow and very real facts about the world of genetically modified agriculture I made a vow to never let GM food into my home again.

The GM movement, also known as bio-engineering, began decades ago and arrived with the promise of "cheaper prices, higher yields, increased production, and greater availability,"  It was a type of agriculture that would "feed a starving world" (but has proved to make it worse).  Scientists figured out a way to tap into the DNA of plants, using genetic information from invasive bacteria and viruses, in order to alter the plant to a more "beneficial" state.  The main crops affected by this technology include (but are in no way limited to) corn, soy, cotton, wheat, and canola.  As mentioned above, corn and most others come equipped with their own pesticides and herbicides built into the make-up of the plant's cells.  Seem harmless to you? The problem with GM crops are numerous (here are a few):
  • farmers are having their crops contaminated by GM seeds and are then being sued by the companies that own the patents to the seeds for "patent infringement" -although the contamination was unwelcomed and unwanted (containment of these seeds is impossible)
  • we still don't know the long-term affects of GM crops on people but we do know they have been know to cause allergic reactions at the very least in some (there have been numerous studies on animals that have become sick or have died as a result of ingesting them)
  • there are no laws in the United States requiring the labeling of GM products (most other countries already required labeling or have banned GM foods entirely) so we never know if we are ingesting them (foods labeled "organic" are safe because organic foods cannot be labeled as such if they are genetically modified)
  • the weeds and insects that GM plants are internally designed to kill are becoming resistant to the built-in pesticides therefore requiring more and more herbicides and pesticides to do the job (much like how viruses become resistant to our human antibiotics from over-use)
The movie has many crucial messages within and I encourage you to take an evening to educate yourself in this area concerning one of our most important and basic needs: food.  You can watch online for free on the website or rent the movie through Netflix or HULU as well. 
For a very disturbing second look at genetic modification in the plant and animal world please see Paul Root Wolpe's speech "It's time to question bio-engineering" on TED.com.

More movie reviews to come!
In the meantime, I can't wait to see this one in May, check out the preview ... Forks Over Knives

-Katie