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Oscar Snub? Food Evolution as Reviewed by Film Critics

January 26, 2018
I don’t know about you, but until the Oscar nominations are announced each January, I frequently reference Rotten Tomatoes to decide if a film is worthy of my time and money.

So, in the wake of yesterday’s Oscar nominations being unveiled (and after attending a screening of Food Evolution hosted by the American Farm Bureau Federation), I took a look back at how Food Evolution went over with critics on the popular review site. Unsurprisingly, the film was very well-received, garnering a 100% fresh rating.  Let’s explore two common themes in the reviews to see what led to the impressive marks.

Capturing the new reality for American scientists

Hanging over the debate between GMO and non-GMO use, is the fundamental challenge of getting consumers and the public to decipher fact from fiction, science from sensationalism, caution from fearmongering.  Like the climate change debate, scientists must understand that facts aren’t sufficient enough in educating the public around GMOs. Scientists, educators and GMO advocates alike are facing an uphill battle in shifting perceptions because of the propaganda put forth by opponents of GMO use. As Serena Donadoni with the Village Voice writes in her review:
What Scott Hamilton Kennedy captures in his scrupulous, optimistic documentary Food Evolution is the new reality for American scientists: the challenge of reaching a public bombarded by conspiracy theories and fearmongering.

Understanding this challenge, the film persists in spewing facts over conspiracy. The film also features testimonials from former GMO critics who now believe in the science and advocate for GMO use. Through these facts and testimonials, Food Evolution meticulously cuts through the GMO falsehoods, battling back the non-GMO propaganda. As Moira Macdonald with the Seattle Times sums it up:
 It’s a compelling argument, in a film that may well change a few minds – or at least inspire some heartfelt post-screening arguing.

“Persuasive rather than polemical”

Moreover, the film does an admirable job of talking with the audience, not at the audience – or as Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times puts it:
Calm, careful, potentially revolutionary, Food Evolution is an iconoclastic documentary on a hot-button topic. Persuasive rather than polemical, its’ the unusual issue film that deals in counterintuitive reason rather than barely controlled hysteria.

The film is able to carefully undermine misguided beliefs about GMOs because it respects both sides of the argument. The directors frame the GMO debate around one common motivation that each side shares: acquiring food abundance while limiting toxicity from production. This approach, coupled with the science, leaves viewers with a takeaway according to Daniel Gold of the New York Times:
With a soft tone, respectful to opponents but insistent on data, Food Evolution posits an inconvenient truth for organic boosters to swallow: In a world desperate for safe, sustainable food, G.M.O.s may well be a force for good.

But perhaps the review from Donadoni said it best:
In exploring the heated rhetoric about the prevalence of genetically modified organisms in our agriculture system, Kennedy offers a methodology for scientists to systemically address bias with fact.

Even though Food Evolution did not receive an Oscar nomination, critics’ reviews show that is clearly worthwhile to watch – no matter which side of the debate you may lie.

Read all the reviews for Food Evolution at here.