By now we have likely all heard about genetically modified organisms. But what is all of the fuss about, and why is there so much fear and distrust surrounding this technology?
Genetically Modified Information is an independent, science based and transnational documentary that aims to provide a scientific perspective and give voice to the voiceless: the farmers who have the most to lose in this whole debate.
Previous documentaries about GMOs have been funded in part by large organic companies seeking to perpetuate misinformation about the technology. This film will be fully independent, not taking any money from any for-profit companies.
Some of the Kickstarter levels will include rewards such as a person's name or organization credited in the film. This is a reward to thank them for their donation, but they will have no input regarding the creation of the film.
Because no single individual or organization is directly funding the film, I as the filmmaker will have full independence regarding all decisions related to the project.
This documentary is the primary component for a final thesis. Because of this, it is academically based. The filmmaker will be working with his academic advisor, someone who is very knowledgeable and passionate about scientific film, photography, and biology. In addition, this project will be supported by a larger network of professors and their contacts.
My goal in making this film is to raise awareness about GMOs and their role in agriculture in the 21st century.
The discourse surrounding genetically modified foods and crops has primarily been taking place in Western contexts. This makes sense because GM crops were first introduced in the United States, but since then many farmers in other countries have adopted the technology.
When thinking about this documentary film, I knew that it had to be grounded in science. This meant that not only would I interview knowledgeable experts, but also that what they say must be supported by reliable, peer-reviewed academic literature. However, I also wanted to explore how GMOs are actually used by farmers, with a primary focus on farmers in developing countries.
Farmers and other citizens in developing countries are the very people who have the most to lose in the whole debate, but these are often the people whose voices are not being heard. So in making this documentary, I believed that the voices of farmers needed to be heard.
I hope to travel to the following places and study more in depth about specific uses of modern genetic engineering.
- The Philippines and Golden Rice: Vitamin A deficiency affects many children in the Global South. It is estimated to kill 670,000 children under five each year. Golden Rice is a type of rice with increased levels of beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Researchers hope that this engineered rice can help save the lives of millions of children. I have plans to travel to the Philippines and learn more about this promising project.
- India and Bt cotton: Bt cotton is a type of cotton that has been engineered to resist certain pests. This means that farmers don't have to apply pesticides as often, if at all. According to research, it has been a major success in India. One farmer, Ravichandran, a third generation Indian farmer who grows biotech cotton, told me that because of genetic engineering, he has been able to make more money through farming and farm more sustainably. I am planning on visiting his farm in India ton about his experiences.
- Kenya and water efficient maize and virus resistant cassava: Maize and cassava are staple crops in many Kenyan's diet, yet they are often difficult to grow successfully. Because of climate change, more and more regions are experiencing low rainfall and drought-like conditions. Cassava is also sometimes difficult to grow because it is prone to the cassava mosaic virus (CMV). CMV can reduce farmers' yields, leading to food insecurity. However, plant biotechnology (and GMOs in particular) might be able to help with both of these problems. Water efficient maize is being developed that will allow maize to grow better when there isn't as much water. In addition, a genetically modified cassava that resists the cassava mosaic virus is also in the works. We aim to speak to farmers and researchers in the area to see if GMOs can help address these issues.
Unlike previous documentaries about GMOs which were western-focused, this film will tell a story about how this new plant breeding technology can help those who need it most.
Because of the film's global scope, global travel and shooting expenses will make up the majority of the production costs.
*Keep in mind that funding is in Canadian dollars. That means that after exchange fees, a $50 pledge will be less than $42 USD.
In planning for this film, we have reached out to experts who know most about farming, biotechnology, and food security. We are excited to feature:
- Kevin M. Folta, Professor and Chairman, Horticultural Sciences Department at University of Florida.
- Margaret E. Smith, Plant Geneticist, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University.
- Mark Lynas, Author, Journalist, and Environmentalist.
- Robert Paarlberg, Professor, Political Science at Wellesley College
- Ronald J. Herring, Professor, Government and International Professor of Agriculture and Rural Development at Cornell University.
- And more.
However, we need your help. In a sea of misinformation, with recent documentaries being funded by the organic industry to spread fear and uncertainty, I need your support to be able to deliver a scientific message about genetically engineered crops. Please consider supporting this ambitious project.
Risks and challenges
This is an ambitious project of a global scope. The film is ready to meet any challenges that may come up. Challenges might relate to filming troubles overseas, getting transport to farmer's fields and organizations and working with language barriers and while lugging heavy gear around bustling cities and sprawling farmscapes.
Your donation will bring us one step closer to creating an independent, science based and transnational GMO documentary.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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