Documentary Site started as an outlet for my interests in documentary 15 years ago. Since then, my presence has expanded to writing, managing Twitter fans, and connecting with makers, promoters, and fans of documentary. Probably three of the coolest things to come from this endeavor are being invited to write for POV, visiting Kartemquin studios, and leading a discussion after a screening of The Trials of Muhammad Ali. My current project involves watching and writing about 365 documentaries in 2014. Feel free to send along your suggestions via Twitter @documentarysite!

#365Docs: GMO OMG (66/365)

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I’m watching 365 documentaries and writing about each one in 2014. Tweet your suggestions to @documentarysite, or send an e-mail to hmcintosh@documentarysite.com. Read more.

Note: This post may contain spoilers.

GMO OMG (Jeremy Seifert, 2013) has been ranking among the top documentaries on iTunes recently, so I decided to check it out.

Seifert’s take on the issues of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) begins with his son’s interest in seeds and seed collecting. Taking his family on a journey of discovery, Seifert explores the issues surrounding GMO production, studies, labeling, and regulation. In part he wants to know why some Haitian farmers call GMO seeds “seeds of death,” while people in the United States remain uninformed about them, as a brief person-on-the-street survey shows.

GMO OMG offers little new information about the debates to those already familiar with them, but it does provide an overview of the issues and the major players for those seeking to learn more. Seifert’s documentary avoids delving too far into the science, which some may see as a shortcoming, but no documentary on this subject is going to placate all the vested interests.

As part of his journey, Seifert interviews a range of people, including farmers, journalists, scientists, and seed preservationists. The closing credits list people and companies who refused to talk with him for the documentary.

He attempts little gags with his children to involve them on his journey. He creates silly GMO goggles, and he runs with them through a field GMO-planted corn wearing HAZMAT suits. His children also stand outside retailers and restaurants holding a sign.

What did bother me, though, was how some of the newspaper headline montages highlighted issues without providing any contexts or information for them. One headline mentions the farmer suicides in India. That point seems too heavy just to flash by on a headline.

Another thing, and some might quibble with me on this point: If you’re dealing with a divisive issue and citing statistics, note your sources, and use primary ones, not secondary ones. GMO OMG features statistics throughout, such as “85% percent of all the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified.” Neither the title in the documentary nor the film’s associated website offers sources for the cited stats. Every stat tells its own story, and it’s important to know who is the teller, a point that even this documentary raises about GMO research.

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Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh started Documentary Site as a resource for documentary media and has greatly enjoyed the connections it has fostered over the years.