Documentary ‘GMO OMG’ Isn’t Just GMO 101

September 18, 2013 11:16 am Last Updated: September 18, 2013 11:16 am

If you believe that you are what you eat, watching “GMO OMG” should be pretty high on your priority list.

It’s not that the topic hasn’t been covered in other documentaries. There are a few dozen out there exploring the subject from various angles. But in a way “GMO OMG” achieves what many other films have not—exploring one of the most complex issues gripping our world today with clarity, conviction, and humility.

The topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is too complex for any one movie or book to unravel. Director and protagonist Jeremy Seifert makes this point clear. Seifert, a concerned father of young children, knew very little when he set out to learn about GMOs.

The more he learned, the bigger the issue became, spanning global themes like world hunger and international trade, the patenting of life, the rights of corporations, the corporate takeover of governments and universities, and the loss of independent research. The list goes on.

Rather than only looking at the general issues he get down to the fundamental questions. The chemical corporations that control a major stake in our food supply operate with a single objective: profits.

Most of the food on our shelves contains GMOs and meat has been fed with GMOs, and we have no way of knowing it. And, of course, a portion of the enormous profits reaped by the likes of Monsanto—more than half a billion dollars to be exact—has been spent to stifle the U.S. government from taking action on the issue.

But the most powerful theme foregoes the startling statistics and mind-boggling facts. And no, I’m not talking about Seifert’s adorable children.

In a sequence of interviews Haitian farmers talk about turning away Monsanto’s seeds. The film then cuts to several shots of anti-GMO protests worldwide and then back to Haiti, where Seifert talks about the locals’ fight to preserve their food sovereignty and how Americans have lost it without ever knowing it.

“They believe that the seeds of life are the common inheritance of all humanity,” Seifert said. “As numerous and diverse as the stars above. Owned by none and shared by all.”

Suddenly the music, which has been building up for several minutes, explodes in a crescendo and the movie cuts to a dazzling and starry sky filmed from the top of a truck on a Haitian road. If you don’t get goose bumps at this point, you’re probably wearing too many layers.

We see the starry sky again when a scientist in Norway turns a key to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. Again it comes as a surprise. The film is so endearing I didn’t expect it to leap to universal questions.

What the night sky and the countless stars drive home is that the movie holds no punches when it comes to Seifert’s conviction that modifying and patenting life is fundamentally wrong. There are no experts or experiments to confirm this. There is right and there is wrong and Seifert makes a compassionate and beautiful argument for his conviction.

Though if you’re still not sure, there are the three adorable children. On the surface, “GMO OMG” is the story of a father concerned about his children’s health. The guy who didn’t care about what he ate before having children now frets about chocolate ice cream packed with GMO ingredients. The children think it’s the best in the world.

The film follows the family on road trip through the United States as they make visits to farmers and experts, a seed savers club, and, briefly, a Monsanto office complex, where Seifert is handed a phone upon walking into the building and instructed to leave immediately.

Eventually, Seifert’s wife and children are exhausted and he continues the journey to Washington, D.C., on his own.

Driving past what seemed like endless fields of GMO crops he sticks his hand out the window with a desire to reclaim the land for his children. The sun sets. Seifert looks tired. The moment is simple, powerful, and forthright. I could really feel a father’s deep concern and frustration.

Some have complained that “GMO OMG” is too simple. I wasn’t expecting a dissertation on genetic modification. A great documentary should distill a topic to its essence. When asked about the criticism at a question-and-answer session, Seifert said that they wanted something more, but that the conversation has to start somewhere.

“GMO OMG” is the best start to a crucial conversation. It’s not simple. It’s clear, informative, and beautiful.