A nutritionist reflects on the sad state of health education about GMOs and farming at schools and universities


One student, from Prairie City High School, shared with me that his teacher showed ‘GMO OMG’ to his class as an introduction to the technology. This documentary by Jeremy Seifert fully opposes the use of GMO technology and according to most independent critics is laden with inaccuracies and misinformation. Esteemed film critic Roger Ebert called it a “misfire,’ grudgingly giving it a 1-star rating, writing: “Seifert’s arguments are dependent on unconvincing testimony and leaps in logic. …GMO OMG is do-gooder propaganda. … [It] is a jeremiad, not a lesson for the masses.”

I asked the student if his teacher made any effort to provide a balance to the documentary, if there were other readings or discussions. His answer was a disappointing ‘no’ and in fact the teacher seemed to think the content was reliable. The student that shared this story told me that he had a family member that worked in the seed industry, and he had done some additional reading on his own, so he knew that the ‘GMO OMG’ documentary was not accurate, but many of his peers were convinced of the dangers of GMO foods after watching the movie.

If you are a teacher, and you want to engage your students in a discussion about GMOs, where could you go for information? There is no core curriculum about this topic. In fact teachers are not even required to teach about food or nutrition. Without a reliable resource, you might turn to the internet and look for a documentary.

There are many options to choose from, I found 10 with one click on Google. Like ‘GMO OMG’, these 10 documentaries all paint a negative and unscientific perspective of GMO technology. Because there are so many junk films and they are so readily available it makes sense that teachers often rely unthinkingly on sensationalized documentaries about GMOs that provide a one-sided perspective. Compound this with the fact that teachers, even those that teach health, rarely take a course in nutrition, food science or agriculture and may not be able to distinguish accurate information about this topic.

Recently, I was invited by an elementary school teacher in another state to speak to one of his students who wanted to do a research project about GMO foods. I volunteered to do this and agreed to speak with the student on the phone several times over the course of a month. I provided scientifically-based information about how GMOs are developed, what they are used for, how they are tested for safety and several references that described scientific evidence for their safety.


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