The documentary film Food Evolution provides a fresh, scientific look at the technology of crop genetic engineering and some situations it has, or could, help solve problems for farmers. It shows the ugly politics and distortions that have maligned a useful technology that has served farmers well for twenty years, worldwide.
Response to the film has been quite polarized. Many that have seen it report an even-handed science-based evaluation of a technology. Still others, including some prominent academics, claim the film is simply propaganda, paid for by the “agrichemical industry”, and serving corporate interests.
A letter was posted last week, signed by 45 scholars and researchers denouncing the work as “a piece of propaganda”. The list includes prominent journalist Michael Pollan, and similar sentiments have been stated by Dr. Marion Nestle of New York University.
This is a very important accusation. The film itself features academics like Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, Dr. Pam Ronald, Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, among others. So to describe the movie as “propaganda” suggests that these researchers are being dishonest or were manipulated into statements that are untrue.
So this question must be presented: Is this film a true reflection of a technology and its applications in a charged climate, or is it misleading propaganda as the letter's signatories state?
I do not want to out-of-hand dismiss the concerns of forty-five scholars. Certainly we should listen to why they feel this film is propaganda. Maybe they see something I have missed.
I invite any of the forty five scholars signing the letter, Dr. Nestle, or other activist dissenters like Stacy Malkan to join me on the Talking Biotech Podcast. My hope is that they can reveal to a science-interested audience the factual errors and scientific inaccuracies shown in the film. My honest intent is to understand why this film is being criticized as propaganda, whereas other films presenting information inconsistent with the scientific literature like Food Inc, GMO OMG, and others did not raise their ire—apparently these were accepted as good representations of science and technology and not propaganda.
Invitations will go out today, and in the interest of fair and balanced discussion we will understand their criticisms that led them to the conclusion of “propaganda”.
As someone that has seen and appreciated the film, I really want to know if I'm just in an echo chamber, and am missing something important.
Maybe they will illuminate where the film and the scientists are being dishonest in the name of placating agrichemical industry sponsors.
Or maybe they will realize the tactical mistake of signing a strong conclusion that criticizes something that have not seen or perhaps do not understand, and impugns the integrity of scientists that participated in telling the film's scientific story.
In the latter case there is irony. Is it possible that a letter signed by forty-five scholars about a scientific film is the real propaganda?