Married to a woman who lives life adhering to not only a Paleo diet but a dairy free option as well (she is gluten and dairy intolerant), I am aware to a reasonable degree of the hazards surrounding wheat and wheat-related products, and it would seem to a degree that those discussions would naturally surround the rise of GMOs ( or genetically modified organisms) in food. But it would seem that the general public may not realize the length and depths of said GMOs are not only present in their food, but the potential health hazards that are caused from it. The documentary GMO OMG attempts to shed more light on GMOs, those who produce them and the perils involved.
Jeremy Seifert wrote and directed the documentary, which includes executive producers such as Jill Howerton (married to Glenn of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia lore) and Elizabeth Kucinich (husband of the former congressman, who appears in the film). Seifert has two sons and a newborn daughter, and his oldest son Finn collects seeds as a hobby. He tries to educate Finn and younger brother Scout on the dangers of GMOs and goes to Washington, Iowa, and many points in between, determined to find out the truth about GMOs as best as possible and communicate it to his kids and the viewers.
Generally, GMO OMG plays out how you would expect it to; you have the director, our hero if you will, railing against GMOs and using things such as Haiti's rejection of seed donations from the infamous Monsanto corporation as at attempt to separate a community whose roots had existed for decades. Discussions about how Monsanto, Bayer and other similar biotech companies still refuse to be transparent with research and data about the seeds that are resistant to pesticides is covered, as well as the ability of the elements that the seeds are protected from have adapted to those chemicals and developed a resistance to it. Farmers are interviewed, ranging over a variety of opinion on GMOs. For me this was the most fascinating aspect of the feature. Some of the farmers realize that there may be hazards associated with their "Roundup Ready" seeds but some show the dangers of not employing GMO products in their crops, while others discuss why organic crops compared to "conventional" ones have the same advantages, minus the prohibits costs or environmental and health dangers.
The data on the pros and cons surrounding GMOs would appear (to my superficial eye at least) to still be pending, though GMO OMG does tend to lean more towards the organic not only from a consumer health perspective, but also from long-term crop sustainability and environmental mitigation angles. GMOs grow a lot and in a shorter term it would appear, but over the course of a longer timeline the yields between GMO and organic seeds appear to even out the longer one goes. The evidence as the film lays it out seems to be startling.
That said, the thing that separates the film from being decent to very good lies in the fact that Seifert does not seem to go further past that over the course of the feature. It will either fall back on Mumford-esque musical cues in its soundtrack or some proselytizing from the director. But somewhat more disconcerting, when lulls tend to come in, and they do even on an 85-minute film, Seifert tends to use his kids a lot through the course of the film to show them what is dangerous and what isn't. Now they ARE his kids and all, but doing things like dressing them in hazmat suits replete with gas masks, or warning a six and three year old about the health effects when they're eating a funnel cake or a scoop of Breyer's ice cream, instead of just not buying it for them in the first place, feels a tad exploitative and haphazard.
To be clear, there is certainly something to be said for GMO OMG and the increasing discussion of GMOs and their role in modern food products is something that absolutely requires addressing, especially with the biotech companies' lobby foothold in Congressional legislation. The problem is the film tends to have a larger noise to signal ratio than most and the message that is being told is not effective, particularly if one knows even a little about the GMO discussion. As a film it is erratic and this tends to come through in it, and the borderline recklessness involved (I would be that some form of ‘yeah, my film may not be complete but my INTENT is without debate' has been uttered in an interview or two) in making it distorts from what is an important topic.
GMO OMG is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks solid. The source material is pristine and devoid of edge enhancement, and image detail is quite nice, presumably the film was shot on several middle to higher end portable high definition cameras and you can spot hairs on farmer's beards or individual small flower petals in a bunch. Colors are accurate and vivid without saturation and overall, the production values of this documentary are better than what I expected.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for the film and it sounds good, all things considered. The film's original music combined with other songs that were used all sound good and deliver a better than expected soundstage. I mean, there is even a moment or two when the subwoofer kicks in to provide maximum sonic goodness. Dialogue is consistent through the feature and requires little in the way of adjustment and the soundtrack is as clean as can be. Nice production values for a documentary.
There are additional interviews with eight subjects, running almost 30 minutes in length (29:53). Seifert does an interview with former Iowa Governor/current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack using quotes from him, read by a sock puppet, but past the sensationalism, the interviews are generally decent, including one where the scientific discussion on GMO yields, pesticides and impacts, and another with an organic farmer who discusses the regulatory hurdles he needs to jump in order to run his farm. "The Scarecrow" (3:34) is a short that the Chipotle restaurant chain produces that shows a CG-animated scarecrow attempting to make the world a better place. The trailer (2:18) completes things.
To re-emphasize, the topic that GMO OMG is addressing is important and well worth any and all of the discussions afforded to it. But in Seifert, we get a guy who it would appear has not done as much of the due diligence on his topic as he should, and the feature almost comes off as a guy who had a couple of famous friends who gave him a rental car and cameras and told him to shoot what he could to get the message out. It is a decent film, just not complete. Technically the disc is good, but could have used some more bonus material. Worth seeing for yourself to make your own judgment.