by Daryl Wein
This is a subject that is incredibly complex, and even more divisive. Our research for our film, CONSUMED, led us to a number of interesting points of discussion.
In the 1980s, for the first time in history, living organisms were able to be patented by corporations. Farms were being inadvertently contaminated with Genetically Modified seeds, causing irreversible effects on the environment including new super bugs and super weeds. Hundreds of farmers all over the country were becoming embroiled in lawsuits with biotech corporations for saving and re- planting seeds, a practice that has sustained agricultural traditions for centuries. And these same farmers were being being consistently investigated and bullied to determine if they were violating GM patent infringement laws.
We also learned that none of these new Genetically Modified seeds had under- gone any long term safety testing by the FDA on animals or humans. GMOs are found in nearly 80% of processed food in the United States. Currently up to 92% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered, as are 94% of soybeans and 94% of cotton. In short, they are everywhere. As consumers, we feel we have a fundamental right to know when Genetically Modified ingredients are present, so that we can make the choice whether or not we feed them to our families.
64 countries around the world label GMOs. We, a bastion of democracy, are the only developed nation to not label them. We, as consumers, must ask ourselves… why not? Why is there so much deception and obfuscation coming from the biotech industry if they believe so much in this technology?
There is a lot of misinformation circulated around the negative potential of labeling GMOs: most prominently, a rise in food prices. This is patently false. The fact is, food manufacturers change their labels all the time. Whether it’s the Superbowl, or a new Star Wars franchise, we see additions to our packaging constantly, with no impact on price. All one has to do is read this article Why Labels Won’t Affect Food Prices by the organization Just Label It to know this is true.
Another concern is from the food manufacturers themselves: that labeling GMOs will dissuade consumers from purchasing their products. In a recent study by economists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the conclusion after studying the behavior of consumers in countries that require GMO labeling was that most consumers make “hasty” choices in the grocery store and look only for one or two attributes on the packaging – like price or calories.
Not surprisingly, since most GMOs are the creation of Chemical companies, GMO crops are dependent on chemical inputs. According to a recent study published in Environmental Sciences Europe, GMO herbicide-tolerant crops “have led to a 527 million pound increase in herbicide use in the US between 1996 and 2011.” And the World Health Organization recently concluded that Glyphosate, the main ingredient in the most used herbicide on GMOs, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” We are now finding Glyphosate in 60-100% of the rain water in the Mid-West.
With widespread herbicide use, has come the emergence of superweeds, which have grown resistant to Glyphosate. This has led to Biotech Corporations devel- oping even more toxic herbicides, including 2,4-D, one of the main components of Agent Orange. What’s more, over 3,200 elementary schools are within 1,000 feet of GMO corn or soybean fields, which leads one to wonder what the effects of these toxic chemicals could be on children.
My film, Consumed, is the first narrative thriller (not a documentary) to tackle these issues in all their complexity. Because there are so many factors when considering the potential impacts of GMOs on our health and environment, we wanted to make a film that could unpack complex subject matter, while taking the audience on an entertaining ride. With starring turns from Danny Glover, Taylor Kinney, and Victor Garber, our hope is to spark a conversation around these all too relevant issues, at a time when we as consumers must educate ourselves about the food we are feeding ourselves and our children.
What we learned over the course of making this film, is that while there is a common misperception that there is a consensus amongst the scientific community on the safety of GMOs, the issue is much more complex. In fact, some of the most respected scientific bodies in the world including Codex Alimentarius (jointly run by the World Health Organization and the Food And Agricultural organization of the United Nations), The American Medical Association, The British Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association, have stated that, through premarket safety assessments, more research needs to be done on GMOs before we can truthfully determine their safety.
The recent defeat of the DARK Act in the Senate was a small victory in corporate transparency and consumer rights in this country. But it’s just the beginning. This issue is bigger than just labeling. It impacts every single one of us, regardless of race, class, or gender. It is about the future of our food supply. And it requires our immediate attention.
To see CONSUMED, you can rent or buy the film directly though the filmmaker’s website: www.consumedthemovie.com. That method helps support the film the most. You can also get the film on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vimeo, Google Play, and select TV VOD Platforms. Follow @consumedmovie on Twitter and Instagram.