Food science gets the big screen film treatment

Food Evolution aims to restore science to the global debate about GM technology

Food science takes centre stage in a new documentary film, funded by the US-based Institute of Food Technology (IFT), which received its UK premiere in London on Tuesday (May 3).

The 90-minute feature film – Food Evolution – makes a passionate plea to base the debate about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on sound science rather than prejudice.  

Directed by Oscar nominee Scott Hamilton Kennedy and presented by US TV science star and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the film charted the consequences of Hawaii’s counties’ decision to ban GMOs.

While the ban was later partly overturned, to allow the cultivation of a GM papaya variety that is resistant to ringspot, the film claimed the moratorium reinforced prejudice around the world against GM technology.

Thousands of farmers, particularly in Africa, are denied access to GM crops that could boost yields by improving drought tolerance or reducing pest attacks while cutting the need for pesticides, argued the film.

Highlighted was the devastating impact of banana wilt, which the film said could be remedied by GM varieties, if the GM technology involved was approved by certain governments.

‘You are suppressing Africa’

One Ugandan farmer told the film makers: “When you say no to GM technology, you are suppressing Africa.”

Among those featured who argued for a more science-based approach to GM technology were former anti GMO campaigner Mark Lynas and Robert Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer.

Hawaiian plant pathologist Dennis Gonsalves explained his contribution to the creation of the virus-resistant rainbow papaya, credited with bringing the indigenous industry back from the brink of destruction by the papaya ringspot virus.

The film also included the views of prominent anti GMO campaigners such as Andrew Kimbrell, of the US-based campaign group Center for Food Safety; and Zen Honeycutt, from the Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine.

The IFT paid for the film but allowed the film makers full creative control of the film’s theme, subject matter and treatment.

‘Feeding a growing population’

‘Laws should be based on truth’

“When results are repeated and found to be true – that is scientific truth. Laws should be made based on truth. Or, that is the end of an informed democracy.”

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson

Speaking exclusively to FoodManufacture.co.uk ahead of the premiere this week, Professor Colin Dennis, immediate IFT past president, said: “We hope that Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s film will encourage a thoughtful, positive and much needed dialogue about the important role that sound science plays in the global food system and the challenges of feeding a growing population. 

“Scott’s film addresses the larger issue of how we make decisions about science and the consequences of making decisions based on emotions, ideology or myth rather than scientific evidence and the reliable scientific method.” 

Dennis hoped IFT members and fellow professionals in the science of food viewed the film in the context of their work.

“It should help them start productive conversations with professional peers, and in their personal networks, about how their work is part of ensuring a safe, nutritious and sustainable food supply.”  

Watch out next week for FoodManufacture.co.uk’s full interview with the professor about his views of the film and the corrosive impact of fear and myth plaguing food science.

Dennis also recently featured in Food Manufacture magazine’s Big Interview series, where he spoke about his mission to promote sound science.

Meanwhile, read more information about Food Evolution here.

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