Grappling With GMOs: Daryl Wein & Zoe Lister-Jones On ‘Consumed’ — Making A Thriller Out of The Politics of Food

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“What they say all the time is: GMOs are saving the world, they are going to save the world, they are going to feed the world. The truth of the matter is, and this is a fact, we have enough food already to feed the world. It’s not about making more food—it is about better distributing the food we have.”

Daryl Wein


Most people don’t know that 80% of all processed foods currently contain genetically modified organisms.

In fact, 54% Americans know virtually nothing whatsoever about the subject of GMOs.

Filmmakers Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister Jones hope to change all that.

Enter Consumed– the very first narrative feature film to tackle the quite controversial and incendiary subject of genetically engineered food.

In the vein of Silkwood, Erin Brockovich and Traffic, Consumed is a taught political thriller of intersecting storylines that pivot around a mother’s investigation into her son’s illness and a series of archetypal characters that ultimately collide in the tangled world of genetically modified foods.

Based on a co-written script directed by Daryl that stars Zoe as the mother, I first met the hyper-kinetic Daryl and his glowing and dynamic wife Zoe at a dinner party just before they commenced production on the film. I was impressed by how informed and passionate they were about the subject of GMO. Even more impressive was their ambition and courage to tackle such a hot button issue on film. That night I made them promise to come on the podcast when the film was complete to tell us all about it. That day is today.

Zoe and Daryl launched their relationship at NYU in 2002. Then they launched their careers, combining talents on two low budget relationship comedies, Breaking Upwards (SXSW, 2009) and Lola Versus (Fox Searchlight, 2012).

The films were so well received, the New York Times dubbed them, “Brooklyn’s answer to the Hollywood power couple,” establishing the pair as fresh new talents on New York’s independent film landscape alongside generational peers like Girls’ Lena Dunham.

The prudent career move for Daryl and Zoe would have been to stay in Brooklyn. Further cultivate their very New York sensibility. Continue making relationship comedies. And carve out fine careers in the vein of Woody Allen or Noah Baumbach.

Instead, they moved to Los Angeles and quickly set up a variety of film projects currently in development. Zoe started consistently showing up in movies and on television (she currently stars in Life In Pieces on CBS with Colin Hanks and Diane Weist). But most of all, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work crafting a complex, intricate independently financed drama about the world of GMOs. Ballsy!

Last Spring, Consumed premiered to positive acclaim at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Starring Zoe alongside a stellar cast that includes Danny Glover, Victor Garber, Griffin Dunne, Anthony Edwards and Taylor Kinney, it’s just a really well done movie — I’ve watched it twice – topical, socially impactful and entertaining.

But let’s be clear — it’s not a documentary. It doesn’t presuppose to answer questions, only ask them.

Today I sit down with today’s guests to ask a few questions of my own.

This is a very fun but at times heavy conversation that confronts the complex issues raised by GMOs and addresses the multi-faceted debate that swirls around it. Topics include:

  • what interested Daryl and Zoe in the subject matter
  • what they learned about GMO researching and making the movie
  • the health & the environmental implications of GMO
  • issue obfuscation in the GMO debate
  • the socio-economic impact of GMO on farmers and consumers
  • legislative & regulatory landscape & oversight of GMO
  • federal & state labeling law initiatives
  • the DARK Act and what it means for consumers

Like today’s guests, I’m not a scientist. None of us play one on film nor on the internet. The GMO debate is nothing if not polarizing. I don’t purport to have total clarity or all the answers. But I do know this: man is prone to hubris, particularly when it comes to bending nature to his will. Given that no peer reviewed studies exist on long-term effects, GMO food is perhaps the planet’s greatest experiment in human health. Ever.

For this and other reasons, I am a staunch supporter of mandatory labeling laws. I simply believe that as consumers we have a fundamental right to know what’s in our food as a prerequisite to informed choice.

If you are interested in seeing Consumed, public screenings are currently rolling out over 100 U.S. theatres via a really interesting new crowd-sourcing distribution platform called Gathr. To find a screening near you or to organize your own, visit consumedthemovie.com/screenings.

I applaud Daryl and Zoe’s mission to introduce the world of GMOs to mainstream audiences and appreciate their willingness to share their perspective with all of you today. I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange and look forward to your thoughts below.

Peace + Plants,

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SHOW NOTES

Connect With Daryl: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Connect With Zoe: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Background On Daryl, Zoe & Consumed:

More on GMO:

Notable GMO Documentaries:

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast:

Production and sound design by Dean Menta. Music by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson.

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