A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Food Evolution is a documentary narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson about the debate over GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in the food, farming, and biotechnology industries. The film takes a "pro science" position, celebrating the positive role of research, facts, and evidence in all decision making -- but particularly in what we farm and what we eat. Although there's very little objectionable content in the movie, the complex concepts and issues being debated here aren't explained with kids in mind. Several brands and companies are discussed in the context of greedy corporate interests, with a particular focus on Monsanto and Whole Foods. Although representatives from both sides of the GMO debate are interviewed, the pro-science position favors the GMO supporters, so your own stance on the issue will impact how you interpret the movie's messages and role models. Violence is limited to arguing and scenes of protesters destroying crops. There's no swearing during the film, but the word "bulls--t" is displayed during the credits.
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What's the story?
From protesters to plant geneticists, farmers to food journalists, FOOD EVOLUTION collects a wide range of opinions to shed light on the controversy surrounding GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The debate spans from farms in Hawaii and Uganda to research facilities in Washington to auditoriums in New York City. In countries around the world, genetically engineered plants are being tested, planted, studied, and fiercely debated. Leading experts explain their positions and present their case about whether GMOs are harmful or lead to higher pesticide use. But this movie argues that the real harm could be in the spread of misinformation. With scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye weighing in, as well as food-world authorities like Michael Pollan, the film presents evidence in favor of the safety of GMO technology.
Is it any good?
This complex documentary is effective at using a pro-science position to challenge the "fear over facts" campaigns that have led to GMO bans, but it's not as unbiased as it presents itself. The film raises some intriguing questions: Is there corporate interest in the organic food movement? Can they really claim the moral high ground if the science doesn't back them up? But the film brushes over these same concerns on the other side. It's difficult to claim that Monsanto -- a company that developed crops resistant to their own herbicide so they could make money on both the plants and the product -- is on the same level as Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, who saved the papaya industry by creating a disease-resistant crop and then donated seeds to the farmers. But that's what's implied.
Still, the main arguments in Food Evolution are worth thinking about. The film posits that it's corporate greed, not the underlying technology, that's negatively impacting farmers and the food industry -- and that it's always best to rely on facts to make important decisions that impact your family and the world. Older kids, especially science lovers, and anyone with an interest in genetic engineering and food science will enjoy the film's focus on unbiased research and hopeful messages about solving worldwide food shortages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their own views regarding GMOs. Do you think they're safe and healthy? Did your opinion change after watching Food Evolution?
How does this film's position compare to that of other documentaries the food industry, like Food Inc. or A Place at the Table? What do you think about scientists who receive money from companies to do research that support them? On the other hand, who do you think paid to make this movie? Do you think the source of funding for a scientific or creative project affects its outcome? Is that a form of bias?
People can sometimes make decisions based on fear or gut instinct rather than facts. Why do you think that is? How do you make decisions?
How were the statistics and evidence presented in Food Evolution? Were they easy to understand? What might be some counter arguments made by those who disagree with the opinions presented in the film?
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