Jeremy Seifert (2013)
GMO-OMG is an excellent first documentary by a young father on a quest to understand the science of GMO technology and its impact on the environment and human health. The film starts by focusing on the general ignorance of the American public about GMOs. This contrasts markedly with other countries, where popular pressure has led many governments to ban GMOs.
What filmmaker Jeremy Seifert describes, in essence, is the systematic hijacking and poisoning of the US food supply by three companies (DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta), all without the knowledge of the American people. At present 85% of all corn grown in the US is genetically modified, 91% of all soy and 90% of all beet sugar. In addition, most non-organic meat and dairy products come from animals fed on GMO corn and/or soy.
Seifert first learned about the potential dangers of GMOs due to a major anti-GMO protest in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. Monsanto’s response to the earthquake was to donate 470 tons of GMO seeds, which protestors burned because of the threat they posed to their seed stock and food sovereignty.
The film highlights four broad areas:
• The powerful Monsanto lobby that engineered FDA approval of GMO seeds in the 1990s without totally inadequate scientific evidence of their safety.
• Recent research into the negative health impacts of GMOs.
• False claims by Monsanto and GMO seed merchants and farmers that GMO technology, which they erroneously claim increases yields, is the only answer to global hunger.
• Monsanto’s determination to stymie consumer choice by blocking GMO labeling laws.
Revolving Door Regulation
As Seifert ably demonstrates, the FDA is a typical “revolving door” agency. in which FDA chief Michael Taylor has alternatively worked for the FDA and Monsanto over many years. In this regulatory environment, where corporations practically regulate themselves, the FDA approved GMO seeds as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe), despite the absence of a single, longitudinal study demonstrating their safety in humans. None of the Monsanto studies submitted for FDA approval were peer reviewed* or longer than three months. It so happens Monsanto’s studies can’t be peer reviewed because the company refuses to release the raw data. In the research described below, rats fed Roundup Ready Corn only developed health problems after month four.
Health Problems in Rats Fed Roundup Ready Corn
In a recently published two year study by French researcher Dr Giles-Eric Seralini, rats fed a steady diet of Roundup Ready** corn developed many more mammary tumors than control rats. This was in addition to kidney, liver and pituitary damage. It remains unclear, however, whether these health effects related to the GMO corn itself or from traces of Roundup in the feed from heavy herbicide spraying. More recent studies have shown that Roundup (aka or glyphosate) causes serious health problems on its own (cancer, kidney damage and reduced sperm counts).
Organic Farming Produces Better Yields
Seifert interviews several organic farmers in the film, who debunk Monsanto claims that GMO crops increase yields. The farmers refer to thirty years of data showing that organic crops consistently outperform GMO crops, particularly during droughts and floods. On average, organic methods produce a 30% better yield. In part, the poor performance of GMO crops relates to the creation of superweeds that can’t be killed by Roundup or any other herbicide.
Monsanto Spends Hundreds of Millions Blocking GMO Labeling Laws
Seifert also interviews Congressman Dennis Kucinich (before he lost his seat in 2012) about his GMO labeling bill. Since 1997, the EU has required all foods (except meat and dairy) to be labeled for GMO ingredients. Because European consumers refuse to buy products containing GMOS, Monsanto aggressively opposes GMO labeling in the US. Seifert also discusses the GMO labeling laws passed in Vermont*** and Connecticut, which were subsequently repealed after Monsanto threatened to sue both states. He also talks about the hundreds of millions Monsanto has spent in around twenty other states to block anti-GMO legislation in 32 other states.
*Scholarly peer review is the process of subjecting an author’s scholarly work, research, or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field.
**Roundup Ready corn is a plant which has had its DNA modified to withstand the weedkiller Roundup. This allows a farmer to kill weeds by spraying massive amounts of Roundup on his fields without killing the corn.
***Vermont enacted a new GMO labeling law in May 2014. As threatened, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other trade associations have filed suit to block the law. A federal judge has already denied their request for an injunction to block the law’s implementation: see Vermont GMO Labeling Injunction Appeal